French Art Collectors Pledge Over $300 Million to Restore Notre-Dame Cathedral
The spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral collapsed on Monday as a massive fire spread through the storied building, leaving onlookers in shock. In the hours after, French billionaires, art patrons, and luxury brands pledged over $450 million to help rebuild Paris’s famed landmark, answering a call from President Emmanuel Macron for a fundraising campaign to help rebuild the historic structure.
The largest donation, announced Tuesday, was from LVMH Group, which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Givenchy, among other iconic brands. The company, together with the family of CEO Bernard Arnault, promised $226 million. Arnault, the main shareholder of LVMH and director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, said in a statement the funds are dedicated to the construction of this architectural work, “which makes up part of the history of France.” The group has also promised to put at the disposal of the state its creative, architectural, and financial teams to help with both the construction and the enormous fundraising efforts ahead.
Francois-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive officer of Gucci owner Kering, and his father, Francois Pinault, dedicated $112 million from their Artemis investment company to a restoration campaign. “This tragedy is striking all the French people, and beyond that, all those attached to spiritual values,” Pinault said in a statement. “Faced with this tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage as soon as possible.” In addition to owning the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, two art museums in Venice, Pinault has plans to open a private museum in Paris in spring 2020.
As firefighters battled the blaze, many took to Instagram to share their condolences and express disbelief. Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek, the wife of Pinault, wrote: “As many others I’m in deep shock and sadness to witness the beauty of Notre-Dame turn into smoke. I love you Paris.”
The Île-de-France regional government (which includes Paris) will release $11 million in emergency aid for the initial rebuilding work. People wanting to make donations can do so via the nonprofit Fondation du Patrimoine.
It’s been reported that Notre-Dame Cathedral remains structurally sound but the beloved symbol of France still suffered its most significant damage in its 800 years of history, which includes the French Revolution and two world wars. The wood-and-lead roof and Gothic spire were both destroyed, leaving gaping holes in the vaulted ceiling.
Built in the 12th and 13th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church on an island in the Seine, the monument is visited by around 13 million people each year. Art historians and museum staffs the world over feared the ruin of relics and the original 13th-century Rose stained glass windows, which would melt at high temperatures. A relic of the crown of thorns, said to have been worn by Jesus during his crucifixion, was confirmed to have been saved, but officials are still determining the status of the other significant artifacts. It also remains unclear what started the fire, which reportedly began in the attic, which was undergoing renovation.