Notre Dame donations expected to exceed funds needed for restoration

26 Apr 19

The fund set up to restore France’s iconic cathedral Notre Dame has already received more than €1bn in pledges.

Experts believe that the money – from a mix of public and private donors – is likely to hugely exceed what is needed for the restoration after the fire in the French capital on 15 April. 

In the immediate aftermath of the blaze, launching an international architectural competition, president Emmanuel Macron reassured the nation that the cathedral would be fully restored within five years, in time for the France’s hosting of the Olympics in 2024. But his prompt response and donations from the very wealthy have prompted a backlash, in a country which is suffering from austerity and has many pressing needs for public funding.

Two of France’s richest individuals are among the donors – Francois-Henri Pinault has provided €100m and Bernard Arnault €200m. Total, the French energy company has pledged a further €100m and L’Oreal €200m. The city of Paris has contributed €50m to the restoration and the International Olympic Committee €500,000.

Four French groups are involved in official fund raising – the Catholic charity Fondation Notre-Dame, the Fondation du Patrimoine, the Fondation de France and the National monuments centre.

The fire that broke out at the start of last week lasted for 15 hours and was tackled by more than 400 fire fighters, who managed to save the building’s two famous bell towers and outer walls. A colony of bees kept in a hive on the roof appears, miraculously, to have survived the conflagration.

Preliminary findings suggest that the blaze began accidentally, during renovations. Remy Heitz Paris public prosecutor told reporters that 50 people are involved in finding out what caused the fire. Investigators have not yet been able to gain access to the interior of the building.

Meanwhile, ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations against economic hardships continue in Paris. Protestors are reported to be angry at the scale of largess of the donations from millionaires, companies and public bodies, despite the plight of France’s disadvantaged groups.

Housing campaigners have been protesting outside the gutted building. One carried placard that said: “Notre Dame burning = €1 billion in 24 hours. Homeless = €0.”

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