France’s richest families donate over €600mn to restore Notre-Dame, so far

Stephane de Sakutin / AFP | Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019, in the aftermath of a fire that caused its spire to crash to the ground.

Amid the outpouring of support for one of Europe's most iconic monuments, France’s billionaires and businesses have lined up to pledge their support to help rebuild Notre-Dame, with the total so far at nearly 700 million euros.


President Emmanuel Macron has vowed the medieval monument will be restored after its spire and roof collapsed Monday night in a violent blaze thought to be linked to renovation work.

"I say to you very solemnly this evening: this cathedral will be rebuilt by us all together. ... We will rebuild Notre Dame because that is what the French expect, because that is what our history deserves, because it is our destiny," Macron said on Monday evening.

French luxury group Kering, whose brands include Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, kicked off the donations late Monday with a promise of 100 million euros ($113 million).

Kering chief Francois-Henri Pinault said the intricate lattice woodwork supporting the roof that was lost in the blaze had to be replicated.

"We have to do it," he told BBC radio.

That pledge was followed on Tuesday by a 200-million-euro pledge from Kering's rival LVMH and the family of its founder Bernard Arnault.

The great and the good of France

French oil giant Total said it would contribute 100 million euros, and the L'Oreal cosmetics group and its founding Bettencourt family pledged 200 million euros.

Other high-profile French donors included the investor Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere with 10 million euros, and construction magnates Martin and Olivier Bouygues, also donated 10 million euros.

Among other firms, the Credit Agricole bank gave 5 million euros, while US private equity investor Henry Kravis has promised $10 million.

Corporate contributions are expected to climb, with blue-chip firms like Vinci, Michelin and BNP Paribas also saying they are looking at how best to help Notre-Dame.

Air France has already said it will offer free flights to experts brought in to help with Notre-Dame's renovation.

And French insurer Groupama said it would supply the estimated 1,300 huge oak beams needed to re-create the roof support.

Public sector coordination

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday proposed organising an international donor conference to coordinate the pledges to restore the French Gothic architectural masterpiece.

The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO has also promised to stand "at France's side" to restore the site, which it declared a world heritage site in 1991.

Donations pour in

The Centre des monuments nationaux, the French government body that manages historic buildings owned by the state launched an online fundraising campaignon Tuesday.

The Fondation du Patrimoine, an independent French heritage organisation, launched a "national fundraising campaign" on Tuesday for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, Anne Le Breton, deputy mayor of the French capital's 4th arrondissement (district), told AFP.

"Those wishing to contribute to the reconstruction of Notre-Dame can from noon on Tuesday, April 16 make donations via the website No fees will be charged." Le Breton added.

The foundation’s website had been so inundated with requests that as of Monday evening it was possible to make donations via another site, National Collection for Notre-Dame of Paris.

International and domestic support

Pledges were also pouring in from anonymous donors to groups including the privately run French Heritage Foundation, which said it has already secured pledges totalling 3.3 million euros.

On a more modest scale, a fund set up on the Leetchi fundraising platform had topped 26,000 euros by Tuesday afternoon.

France 2 television said it will broadcast a special classical music concert Wednesday night as part of the fundraising effort.

And the French Council of the Muslim Faith also called on French Muslims to help save "an architectural masterpiece that is the honour of our country".

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city would unlock 50 million euros, while the government of the greater Paris region promised 10 million.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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