PARIS – Pledges from French billionaires, businesses and the public sector to help rebuild Notre Dame cathedral reached some €700 million ($790 million) on Tuesday amid an outpouring of public support for one of Europe’s most iconic monuments.
President Emmanuel Macron has vowed the medieval monument will be restored after its spire and roof collapsed Monday night in a spectacular blaze thought to be linked to extensive renovation work.
French luxury group Kering, whose brands include Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, kicked off the campaign late Monday with a promise of €100 million ($113 million).
It was followed Tuesday by a €200 million pledge from Kering’s rival luxury conglomerate, LVMH, and the family of its founder, Bernard Arnault, France’s richest person.
The L’Oreal cosmetics group and its founding Bettencourt family offered €200 million, while French oil giant Total said it would contribute €100 million.
Several other business executives and blue-chip French firms also said they would contribute, some announcing pledges of five, €10 or €20 million.
Air France said it would offer free flights to experts brought in to help with Notre Dame’s renovation, while glass giant Saint-Gobain promised its expertise in restoring the stained-glass windows that exploded in the fire.
Support came from outside France as well, with Apple chief Tim Cook announcing the tech giant would give an unspecified amount to help restore a “precious heritage for future generations.”
Some gripes emerged on social media over the huge fiscal deductions companies in both France and the U.S. would be eligible for, with commentators saying taxpayers would be footing much of the final bill.
But pledges were also pouring in from anonymous donors to groups including the privately run French Heritage Foundation, which said it had secured more than €13 million in pledges.
On a more modest scale, a fund set up on the Leetchi fundraising platform had reached nearly €29,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
France 2 television said it will broadcast a special classical music concert Wednesday night as part of the fundraising effort.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith also called on French Muslims to help save “an architectural masterpiece that is the honor of our country.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city would unlock €50 million, while the government of the greater Paris region promised €10 million.
And French insurer Groupama said it would supply the estimated 1,300 huge oak beams needed to re-create the intricate roof support.
The German and Italian governments have also offered to help in the reconstruction, while Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to send “the best Russian specialists with rich experience in the restoration of national heritage monuments.”
In total, around €700 million has been pledged for the painstaking renovation work that is likely to take years, if not decades, though experts breathed sighs of relief that the damage was not even worse.
The steeple of the Gothic edifice had been undergoing an €11 million ($12.4 million) overhaul financed by the French state to repair damage inflicted by time, pollution and the weather.
The cathedral has long relied on individual donations for repairs, and a few years ago created a U.S.-registered charity enabling American voters to deduct gifts from their taxes.
The New York-based French Heritage Society said it had also set up a fund for tax-deductible donations for Notre Dame in the wake of the fire.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5