Where are Notre Dame’s promised millions?

Wednesday - 02/10/2019 15:40
Where is the money that was promised to Notre Dame? Picture: Stephane de Sakutin/Pool/AFPSource:AFP
Where is the money that was promised to Notre Dame? Picture: Stephane de Sakutin/Pool/AFPSource:AFP
Multimillion-dollar donations to rebuild Notre Dame were pledged within hours of April’s devastating fire. Six months on, where’s the money?

The fire had barely been extinguished when the avalanche of donations started rolling in.

As the world watched in horror when a catastrophic fire engulfed Paris’ precious Notre Dame cathedral in April, destroying priceless artefacts and gutting the 850-year-old building, donors reached into their pockets to help.

Within days of the fire, a global community had pledged to donate more than €700 million ($A1.1 billion), with other unspecified donations pushing the total even higher.

The donation pledges were led by some of France’s wealthiest citizens, who promised hundreds of millions each.

But six months on, work has barely begun to restore the charred building, despite French President Emmanuel Macron’s tight five-year deadline to rebuild it.
 

Excavators are seen during preliminary work in the Notre Dame cathedral in July, three months after the fire. Picture: Stephane de Sakutin/Pool/AFP
Excavators are seen during preliminary work in the Notre Dame cathedral in July, three months after the fire. Picture: Stephane de Sakutin/Pool/AFPSource:AFP

 

As Associated Press reports, there have been months of delays in the pledged millions materialising, leaving officials reliant on small charity donations to fund early repairs.

The Notre Dame Foundation has received just €36 million ($A59 million) from 46,000 individuals, 60 businesses and 29 municipalities between April 15 and the end of September, with some donations as small as one euro, AP reported.
 

The April 15 fire destroyed the roof and steeple of the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral. Picture: Philippe Lopez/Pool/AFP
CaThe April 15 fire destroyed the roof and steeple of the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral. Picture: Philippe Lopez/Pool/AFPSource:AFP

 

Salaries of workers who have still been cleaning the site of the fire have been paid through smaller, individual donations from people in France and the United States.

Finally, though, the massive donation cheques are starting to roll in.

On Tuesday in Paris, French billionaire Francois Pinault and son Francois-Henri Pinault officially signed documents to hand over €100 million ($163 million) toward rebuilding the cathedral.
 

The cathedral in May, a month after the fire. Picture: Bertrand Guay/AFP
The cathedral in May, a month after the fire. Picture: Bertrand Guay/AFPSource:AFP

 

Francois-Henri Pinault is the husband of Hollywood star Salma Hayek and owner of Parisian luxury group Kering, which owns Gucci and Saint Laurent.

His was the first major pledge when he promised €100 million within hours of the tragedy.

“Faced with this tragedy, my father and I have decided to contribute to the funds needed to fully rebuild Notre Dame de Paris, in order to bring this jewel of our heritage back to life as soon as possible,” he said at the time.
 

The fire on April 15 devastated people around the world. Picture: Bertrand Guay/AFP
The fire on April 15 devastated people around the world. Picture: Bertrand Guay/AFPSource:AFP

 

Minutes later, Pinault’s rival, Bernard Arnault, who is one of the world’s richest men, doubled Mr Pinault’s offer and pledged €200 million ($A326 million).

Mr Arnault is the CEO of LVMH, which encompasses luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Marc Jacobs. He finalised his donation last week, AP reported.

The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L’Oreal fortune also promised €200 million.
 

Francois-Henri Pinault, left, his father Francois Pinault, right, and Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, centre, sign an agreement to raise money to rebuild Notre Dame. Picture: AP/Thibault Camus
Francois-Henri Pinault, left, his father Francois Pinault, right, and Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, centre, sign an agreement to raise money to rebuild Notre Dame. Picture: AP/Thibault CamusSource:AP

 

Francois Pinault said he was announcing the donation publicly in the hope others would chip in, too.

“It is certainly vulgar to make a gesture and then promote it, but the idea was to generate others,” he said.

A spokesman for the family pointed out it had donated more than €10 million ($A16 million) in emergency funds in June.

The donation from the Pinaults is expected to boost the massive repair and restoration project for Notre Dame, which has so far been focused on cleaning and safety work.

It costs €31 million ($A50 million) to simply preserve the building in its current state.
 

A construction worker rappels down the cathedral during preliminary work in July 24. Picture: Rafael Yaghobzadeh/Pool/AFP
A construction worker rappels down the cathedral during preliminary work in July 24. Picture: Rafael Yaghobzadeh/Pool/AFPSource:AFP

 

Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, said the Pinaults’ donation pledge, within hours of the fire, spurred a movement.

“It came spontaneously during that evening, when we didn’t yet know whether the cathedral could be saved,” he said.

“It launched a movement that is still ongoing, because we still have 140 donations a week.”

The archbishop said authorities wouldn’t know the total cost or duration of the repair project until next year.

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 Keywords: France

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