Macron: Notre-Dame will be rebuilt as fund nears €1bn

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged that the Notre-Dame cathedral will be rebuilt within the next five years, as thousands have gathered to pay their respects, and the rebuilding fund nears €1 billion.

Published Last updated

Mr Macron appeared on television last night (Tuesday April 16) to pledge that the stricken cathedral, which was severely damaged by a serious fire on Monday night, would be rebuilt quickly, to be “even more beautiful” than before.

He said: “We can do it, we will rally around. We are a building people, and we have so much to reconstruct. We have seen how our capacity for action can unite us to triumph...we will find the thread of this national project, this passionately-French, human project.”

Mr Macron added: “The fire at Notre-Dame reminds us that our history never stops, and that we will always have challenges to overcome. It is up to us, the French today, to ensure the great continuity of the French nation.”

The President added that his next government meetings would be “entirely dedicated” to the aftermath of the fire, and the building’s reconstruction, and to the planned launch of a “national fund” for members of the public who would like to donate money for the rebuild.

Mr Macron said that he would “come back to you [the people] in the next few days so that we can act”.

He had previously cancelled his plans to address the nation on the subject of the national Grand Débat in response to the gilets jaunes protests. He said: “Tomorrow, politics and its tumultuousness will take back their roles, but that moment has not yet arrived.”

The scale of the rebuild effort is not yet known, with some suggesting that it will take much longer than five years; and others claiming that it cannot be rebuilt in the same way, because - among other suggestions - as heritage group la Fondation du Patrimoine has claimed, France does not grow trees tall enough to replace the former wooden beams.

Paying their respects

Yet, the President’s pledge came on the same night as thousands of people gathered in Place Saint-Michel in Paris, in the shadow of the cathedral, to pay their respects.

They lit candles, brought flowers, and sung hymns and other songs. Some publicly read prayers and other homages, while others played music and read out lectures.

Funding continues to grow

The events come as donations have poured in from benefactors around the world, pledging to help the rebuild effort.

The current fund stands at almost €1 billion, after fashion giants LVMH and the Arnault family, and the Pinault family, kicked off the donations with €200 million and €100 million respectively.

The Ile-de-France region and the city of Paris pledged €10 million and €50 million each.

Now, Apple CEO Tim Cook has pledged that the tech giant will donate money to help what he called “a symbol of hope”, while Brazilian billionaire Lily Safra, and the Edmond J Safra Foundation, have given €10 million. American Henry Kravis, co-founder of investment fund KKR, has also pledged €8.85 million ($10 million.

Similarly, American catholic university the University of Notre Dame - which is in the US state of Indiana - said that it would give €88,400 ($100,000) for “a church whose gothic architecture has lifted hearts and spirits towards God for centuries”.

Also on the list is the French Heritage Society of New York, which has offered €34,500 ($39,000) from 510 different donors.

A national fundraiser has been set up by la Fondation de France too, through which members of the public can donate online. Anything from €1 up is welcomed.

Some have already warned donors to be alert to scams and to ensure that the fundraiser you are using is genuine, however, as some fake "funds" have already reportedly been spotted online.

High-profile tributes

Money aside, the disaster has swept the world, with many high-profile people paying tribute to the cathedral and sharing their stories.

Former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, notably commented on the incident last night, as she took to the stage in Paris as part of her book tour for her memoir, Becoming.

To applause from the audience, she said: “Paris was my first international experience when I was a little girl. I went to the cathedral when I was small. Notre-Dame will be rebuilt.”

Pope Francis has also made a statement, giving “gratitude from all of the Church” towards the firefighters who saved the cathedral from even further damage. In his address at The Vatican, the Pope thanked “all those who worked, at the very risk to their lives”.

He said: “May the Virgin Mary bless them.”

The fire appears to have been accidental, and caused by construction work that had been taking place to restore it.

An inquiry into a case of “involuntary destruction by fire” has been launched.

Yesterday, culture minister Franck Riester said: “We know that is it not criminal, and it seems that the fire started in a place where there was scaffolding. Scaffolding that was in place with an aim to restore the spire.”

Yet, some art historians have said that such a disaster was “inevitable” due to what they called a lack of care and funding towards national heritage and building restoration works.

Despite fears over the damage, Paris firefighters yesterday confirmed that “the structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved in the main”, and that the two belfry towers and the main stained glass window had survived.

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France