April 17, 2019

Everything We Know So Far About the Efforts to Rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral prior to Monday’s tragic fire. Photography by Hannah Reading.

By now, the fire that spread through the attic of Notre-Dame Cathedral, toppling its beloved spire, has been well-documented. While French authorities were able to subdue the blaze late Monday night, the process of rebuilding the 12th-century landmark—a UNESCO world heritage site for nearly 30 years—will take much longer.

The two largest French luxury conglomerates were among the first to publicly pledge considerable sums in support of rebuilding the cathedral. The Pinault family, who owns the Kering group (parent company to luxury heavyweights like Gucci, Saint-Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and more) was the first to publicly announce their support, with François-Henri Pinault pledging to donate €100 million on Monday.

Shortly thereafter, Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France and chairman/CEO of LVMH Moët Henessey Louis Vuitton, pledged a €200 million donation from his family. LVMH holds 70 companies in the luxury sector, including Dior, Celine, and Louis Vuitton. In addition to financial support, Arnault also vowed to put the use of LVMH’s creative resources—notably, its “architectural and financial specialists” at the disposal of the French government “and all relevant authorities,” the company said in a statement.

As of Tuesday, public and private donations continued to flow in, totaling nearly $1 billion and counting. French President Emmanuel Macron made a televised (and Tweeted) address to the nation on Tuesday, in which he voiced his desire to see the cathedral rebuilt within five years. By this morning, the French government had set up an official online portal to accept donations for the cause. French Prime Minister Eduoard Philippe took to Twitter to announce a tax benefit for such donations and also meditated on a recently-announced architecture competition to create a new spire for the cathedral. According to an interview given by Philippe to the BBC, the competition will be open to designers around the world and the design for the new spire should be “adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era.”

A significant ray of hope in this process is the work of late historian Andrew Tallon, who figured out how to use laser technology to create 3-D scans of Notre-Dame during his life. The scans were “accurate to within five millimeters [.5 centimeter],” he said in a 2015 interview with National Geographic. 

Donors are creatively funding the restoration work of Notre-Dame—check out how winery Château Mouton Rothschild is tackling it.

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