Saints and gargoyles, angels, prophets and kings: all will be relieved. As part of a clean-up operation, the cathedral of Notre-Dame is to purge its statues of generations of pigeon droppings, and then electrify them to discourage future visitations.

"It's a simple but effective system," said Pascal Combet of Research and Implementation of Tech-niques for Banishing Pigeons Ltd. "We install short stainless steel rods, invisible from a distance, which carry a small electric charge. They're not fatal, but pigeons hate them."The cathedral's statues, some of which date back to the 14th century, have suffered for years from the ravages of Paris' rampant pigeon population. Many are now badly disfigured, said Bernard Fonquernie, a senior architect at the city's historic monuments commission, which is in charge of the renovations.

"The effect of pigeon droppings is shocking," he said. "Not only does it look unattractive, in some cases there's so much guano you can barely make out the faces." Droppings generate nitrates that eat into the stone. "We had to do something," he added.

Starting with the cathedral's western walls, hundreds of statues and carvings are to be cleaned by hand using spatulas and solvents. All pigeon nests will be destroyed.

"The work is complicated by a previous anti-pigeon campaign that didn't work," Fonquernie said. "Fifteen years ago we tried coating the statues with a special repellent. Unfortunately, it only worked for a year, and it stained half the carvings black."

Originally completed in 1330 but extensively altered during the 17th century.

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