Pledges to help rebuild the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris have reached $1 billion. (€880million, £765 million).
French prosecutors have said the fire, which required more than 400 firemen to control it on Monday night, was probably caused by accident. They worked through the night to extinguish the blaze some 14 hours after it began.
The donations have been rushing in and the current sum includes:
- €200m from the luxury L’Oréal cosmetics group, along with the Bettencourt Meyers family and the Bettencourt Schueller foundation
- €200m from French tycoon Bernard Arnault and his luxury goods group LVMH
- €100m from French billionaire François Pinault
- €100m from the French oil and gas company Total
- €20m from the holding company of the JCDecaux family, owners of one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies
- €1m from technology consulting firm Capgemini
Ordinary Catholic worshippers have also contributed to the sum, as have tech giant Apple and design houses Chanel and Dior. Presidential cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern told broadcaster France-Info on Wednesday that €880 has been raised so far.
The pledges came as French president Emmanuel Macron said he wants to see Notre Dame rebuilt within five years.
“We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it,” Macron said in a television address to the nation.
The Arnault family, which own brands including Lois Vuitton and Moët, called the 800-year-old cathedral a “symbol of France, its heritage and unity.”
François Pinault, whose company owns brands including Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Gucci, called it “a symbol of spirituality and our common humanity.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Pinault said it was a “shock” to see the iconic building on fire, adding: “We need to rebuilt collectively this part of our history, of our culture, so it’s an urgent, urgent need to move forward, so I decided to unlock a very important amount of money to do that.”
Pinault added that the money, which comes from his family’s personal wealth and not from his retail empire Kering, comes with no strings attached as to how it is used for repairs.
Donations have also been pouring in from around the world. Fundraising website GoFundMe said: “Since the news broke on Monday evening, hundreds of campaigns have been launched by people wanting to help rebuild Notre Dame.
“We are in full control of funds until we are absolutely sure that they will get to the right place. We will be working with authorities in France to make sure funds flow smoothly into the rebuilding effort.”
The French Heritage Society, an American non-profit group dedicated to preserving French architectural and cultural treasures, also launched a web page on Monday to raise money for the cathedral’s restoration.
Air France-KLM said it would provide free transport to anybody involved in the repair and restoration effort.
France’s culture minister has said the cathedral’s “most precious treasures” have been saved from the devastating fire, including the crown of thorns Catholic relic and the tunic of Saint Louis.
Franck Riester, the French minister for culture, told reporters outside the cathedral that other works are being transferred to the Louvre museum on Tuesday and Wednesday. There, they will be dehumidified, protected and eventually restored.
He said that the cathedral’s greatest paintings will be removed starting on Friday, adding: “We assume they have not been damaged by the fire but there will eventually be damage from the smoke.”
Denis Jachiet, deputy bishop of the cathedral, said there would be no Easter celebrations in Notre Dame this year. “It’s impossible to enter into the cathedral so these religious celebrations will take place in other churches,” he said.
“For the religious I think there is really an invitation to prayer and the internalisation of this situation.”
One firefighter was injured but no one else was hurt in the blaze which began after the building was closed to the public for the evening.
Fifty people are working on what promises to be a long and complex investigation.
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