Some of France’s Richest Families Have so Far Pledged $728 Million to Rebuild Notre-Dame

The catastrophic fire that engulfed the 856-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on the evening of April 15 brought many to tears. As thousands watched the devastation, onlookers sung “Ave Maria” in sombre tones.

TOPSHOT – A man watches the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral burn, engulfed in flames, in central Paris on April 15, 2019. – A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of gray smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, which is visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze. (©Getty Images | GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT)

The emotion was felt deeply by Parisians, who have just endured a week of violent protests. Many had gathered on the banks of the Seine, and watched in horror as the flames and heat toppled the delicate iconic spire. Many wept freely at the sight.

TOPSHOT – Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. (©Getty Images | FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

Although the spire and the roof were burned, the two bell towers and  most of the shell structure were saved. Several statues were removed one week prior as part of the restoration work going on—luckily they were safe. However, nothing is left of the wooden frame, a network of timber from 1,300 oak trees constructed in the 13th century, that served as fuel to the fire.

PARIS, FRANCE – APRIL 16: Damage caused to Notre-Dame Cathedral following a major fire yesterday on April 16, 2019, in Paris, France. A fire broke out on Monday afternoon and quickly spread across the building, causing the famous spire to collapse. The cause is unknown but officials have said it was possibly linked to ongoing renovation work. (©Getty Images | Dan Kitwood)

Although the flames were fully extinguished by the morning of April 16, the full extent of the damage and the cost of rebuilding is as yet unknown. The cause of the fire is also unknown. The emotional response to the Gothic masterpiece destruction was widespread, with many countries pledging help to rebuild the centuries-old priceless Parisian landmark.

A picture taken on April 16, 2019, shows the altar surrounded by charred debris inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. – French investigators probing the devastating blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019, questioned workers who were renovating the monument on April 16 as hundreds of millions of euros were pledged to restore the historic masterpiece. As firefighters put out the last smouldering embers, a host of French billionaires and companies stepped forward with offers of cash worth around 600 million euros (US$678 million) to remake the iconic structure. (©Getty Images | LUDOVIC MARIN)

Some of France’s wealthiest were the first to raise their hands and open their check books to pledge funding to rebuild the cathedral—with an estimated US$728 million pledged to date, according to Business Insider.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the cathedral and said the building “is our history, it is our literature.”

“This is the place where we have lived all of our great moments, the epicenter of our lives. It is the cathedral of all the French.”

French President Emmanuel Macron sits at his desk after addressing the nation on April 16, 2019, during which he vows to rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral within five years, a day after a fire erupted in the 850-year-old landmark. Macron had canceled a speech expected to outline key measures in response to months of anti-governments protests. (©Getty Images | YOAN VALAT)

It seems Macron will have the backing to achieve it, as other countries are certain to donate resources or funding.

The three major donors so far are France’s richest man, billionaire businessman Bernard Arnault and his family; François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s founder; and the Bettencourt Meyers family.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – DECEMBER 3: Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault attends the 2018 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on Dec. 3, 2017, in Mountain View, California. (©Getty Images | Kimberly White)

A statement issued on behalf of the Arnault family read, “The Arnault family and the LVMH group would like to show their solidarity ata this time of national tragedy, and are joining up to help rebuild this extraordinary cathedral, which is a symbol of France, of its heritage and of French unity.”

Below is a list of all the major donors so far, as reported by BusinessInsider. There have also been many pledges of donations from across the world.

French luxury group LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bernard Arnault presents the group’s annual results for 2018 at the LVMH headquarters in Paris, on Jan. 29, 2019. (©Getty Images | ERIC PIERMONT)

Additionally, the New York-based French Heritage Society launched a website on April 15 to raise funds for the cathedral’s restoration, reported Reuters.

“I fight back tears as I write this,” Elizabeth Stribling, the chair of the French Heritage Society, said in a press release.

“Notre-Dame is more than a religious symbol, it speaks of human achievements and great art.

“Although it’s located in France, it is part of great world art that informs our culture and heritage. We must all spring to action,” she said.

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Author: Chris Ford