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The Untergunther

The Untergunther is a French team whose activity is to restore the invisible parts of the heritage in total clandestinity.
In November 2005, the Untergunther infiltrated the Pantheon of Paris and, with the help of the professional clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot, started to restore the abandoned monumental 1850 Wagner clock before its irreversible state of defacement.
Once this restoration achieved, in October 2006, the Untergunther decided to meet Bernard Jeannot, the administrator of the Pantheon, in order to show him this work and to connect the clock to the bells.
After an enthusiastic welcome, Mister Jeannot suddenly changed his mind and decided to keep the silence on this clandestine restoration, frightened that this fantastic action was the proof of the incapacity of the French National Heritage administration, Monum, to preserve the heritage it is in charge of.
On the night of the 24th december 2006, the Untergunther came back to the Pantheon and fixed the bells to the clock which just rang for Christmas and a few days after because Mister Jeannot decided that this result of a clandestine restoration of an abandoned part of the French heritage was intolerable and had to stop.
Bernard Jeannot can be the administrator of the Pantheon but he does not seem to care about heritage.
No doubt that a real guerilla is declared between him, its inefficient administration and the UnterGunther.
This amazing restoration is the end of an adventure began with the clandestine transformation of a neglected part of the Pantheon as a design living room with wood furniture built onsite, electricity, and a computer connected to internet called the UGWK, for "Unter und Gunther Winter Kneipe", which could be translated as the Unter and Gunther Winter Boozer. A very pleasant workshop which gave also nightmares to Mister Jeannot and its so called Administration.

On the morning of friday November 23 2007, four members of the Untergunther appeared before the Paris Court of Justice, charged not of illegal intrusion and occupation of a national monument or use of false keys but for having detroyed a keeper of a lock located on one of the outside grids of the Pantheon.
This charge (qualified as "stupid" by Public Prosecutor Anne Benejean) being not provable, the indictment was the total release of the UnterGunther members while Eric Gomez, lawyer for Monum, asked 48300 euros in compensation.
After twenty minutes of deliberation, Judge Eric Meunier confirmed the release.
Pascal Monnet, the new Administrator of the Pantheon after the retirement of the efficient Bernard Jeannot, and Ghislaine Santoni, in charge of the security of the building, left the Court of Justice with a very sad face and the UnterGunther went to their new clandestine workshop to have a drink.

Interviewed by French newspaper Le Monde, Monum acknowledged the quality of this restoration.
One can now wonder why the administration does not decide to wind up the clock. It is impossible to think that for all these administrators in charge of the French Heritage a monument is something stated in the time and can not be changed, and especially not be upgraded by a clandestine restoration....

Choice of articles published in English and French :
Le Parisien (Oct. 14, 2006) : Le Panthéon habité en secret
Le Figaro (Aug. 31, 2007) : Dans le monde secret des explorateurs urbains
The Times (Sep. 29, 2007) : Underground 'terrorists' with a mission to save city's neglected heritage
Le Monde (Nov. 25, 2007) : Aux intrus, la patrie... très énervée
The Guardian (Nov. 26, 2007) : Undercover restorers fix Paris landmark's clock
Wired (January 20, 2012) : The New French Hacker-Artist Underground
Science & Vie Junior (#288, August 2013) : Les fantômes du Panthéon


The 150 year old Wagner clock and the Untergunther's clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot © TF1

An Untergunther repairing the old Wagner clock mecanism © UX

Inside the Wagner clock - Before and after the Untergunther restoration © TF1

The UGWK designed and built by the Untergunther in a neglected part of the Pantheon © UX

Untergunther's clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot © UX

Pantheon, user's guide.
Film by Lazar Kunstmann.



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