Close to €500m pledged already for Notre Dame restoration as Bouygues and Vinci join effort

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to get Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt after yesterday’s devastating fire, launching a national subscription to raise money.

Already, close to €500m has been pledged by billionaires, construction, oil and other companies, and local governments.

Construction giants Bouygues and Vinci promised cash and expertise in assembling craftsmen.

Speaking shortly before midnight on Monday, 15 April, President Macron, accompanied by prime minister Édouard Philippe and the mayor of the capital, Anne Hidalgo, announced the launch of the fund-raising drive.

"This cathedral, we will rebuild it all together. We will appeal to the greatest talents and we will rebuild Notre Dame because it is our destiny," he said.

He added that the effort would be a global affair: "Well beyond our borders, we will appeal to the greatest talents, who will come here and contribute, and we will rebuild."

Mayor Hidalgo then told radio station France Inter that she would hold an international conference of donors and experts, and announced a contribution of €50m from the City.

Money will also be solicited from the general public. The Heritage Foundation today launched a "national collection" on the site, followed shortly after by another collection point at to deal with the rush of contributions.

Meanwhile, more than €300m has been pledged by French billionaires. François-Henri Pinault, owner of luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen and Gucci, pledged €100m, and Bernard Arnault, owner of Louis Vuitton and Fendi, offered €200m.

"I saw my 17-year-old daughter crying. It hit us in the guts," Pinault told the Europe 1 television channel this morning. "It is an incredible challenge, and a symbolic gesture. We will all participate, each according to his abilities. It’s about our history, our culture and our national pride. We must be up to the task."

France’s two largest construction companies have also been quick to promise funding. Martin and Olivier Bouygues announced a donation of €10m, and said Bouygues would help to assemble the craftsmen needed to restore the structure.

The Vinci Group also said it would provide "part of the financing" and added that all the builders of France would "join forces" to carry it out.

Patrick Pouyanné, the chief executive of energy company Total, said his company would make a donation of €100m, and Michelin said it would also make a contribution, with the amount to be decided by the board of directors.

The billionaire businessman Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, who controls the investment company Fimalac, has promised a €10m for the restoration of the spire. French management consultant CapGemini and Crédit Agricole Ile-de-France both promised €1m.

Local authorities have also started announcing support. The Ile-de-France region will release €10m of emergency aid, and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region pledged €2m.

Begun in 1163, and added to over the next two centuries, the cathedral is considered to have been a pioneering achievement in structural innovation and daring gothic style.

There are warnings that the restoration will take years, however.

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), said: "We will be gone for years of work, it will be a great loss, a great injury."

Eric Fischer, director of the Foundation of the Work of Our Lady, said it would take "decades" to rebuild.

"The damage will be significant. But we are lucky in France to still have a network of excellent heritage restoration companies, whether small-time artisans or bigger groups," he told AFP.

He added that architects would need "a maximum of historical data or more recent data gathered with modern technology such as 3D scans" of the kind used in the restoration of the Strasbourg cathedral.

Image: President Macron addresses the nation (YouTube)

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