Some of France’s Richest Families Have so Far Pledged $728 Million to Rebuild Notre-Dame

April 17, 2019 Updated: April 19, 2019

The catastrophic fire that engulfed the 856-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on the evening of April 15 brought many to tears. As thousands watched the devastation, onlookers sung “Ave Maria” in sombre tones.

A man watches the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral burn, engulfed in flames, in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Getty Images)

The emotion was felt deeply by Parisians, who have just endured a week of violent protests. Many had gathered on the banks of the Seine, and watched in horror as the flames and heat toppled the delicate iconic spire. Many wept freely at the sight.

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019.(Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Getty Images)

Although the spire and the roof were burned, the two bell towers and  most of the shell structure were saved. Several statues were removed one week prior as part of the restoration work going on—luckily they were safe. However, nothing is left of the wooden frame, a network of timber from 1,300 oak trees constructed in the 13th century, that served as fuel to the fire.

Damage caused to Notre-Dame Cathedral following a major fire on April 16, 2019, in Paris, France. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Although the flames were fully extinguished by the morning of April 16, the full extent of the damage and the cost of rebuilding is as yet unknown. The cause of the fire is also unknown. The emotional response to the Gothic masterpiece destruction was widespread, with many countries pledging help to rebuild the centuries-old priceless Parisian landmark.

A picture taken on April 16, 2019, shows the altar surrounded by charred debris inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. (Ludovic Marin/Getty Images)

Some of France’s wealthiest were the first to raise their hands and open their check books to pledge funding to rebuild the cathedral—with an estimated US$728 million pledged to date, according to Business Insider.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the cathedral and said the building “is our history, it is our literature.”

“This is the place where we have lived all of our great moments, the epicenter of our lives. It is the cathedral of all the French.”

French President Emmanuel Macron sits at his desk after addressing the nation on April 16, 2019. (Yoan Valat/Getty Images)

It seems Macron will have the backing to achieve it, as other countries are certain to donate resources or funding.

The three major donors so far are France’s richest man, billionaire businessman Bernard Arnault and his family; François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s founder; and the Bettencourt Meyers family.

Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault attends the 2018 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on Dec. 3, 2017, in Mountain View, California. (Kimberly White/Getty Images)

A statement issued on behalf of the Arnault family read, “The Arnault family and the LVMH group would like to show their solidarity ata this time of national tragedy, and are joining up to help rebuild this extraordinary cathedral, which is a symbol of France, of its heritage and of French unity.”

Below is a list of all the major donors so far, as reported by BusinessInsider. There have also been many pledges of donations from across the world.

French luxury group LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bernard Arnault presents the group’s annual results for 2018 at the LVMH headquarters in Paris, on Jan. 29, 2019. (Eric Piermont/Getty Images)

Additionally, the New York-based French Heritage Society launched a website on April 15 to raise funds for the cathedral’s restoration, reported Reuters.

“I fight back tears as I write this,” Elizabeth Stribling, the chair of the French Heritage Society, said in a press release.

“Notre-Dame is more than a religious symbol, it speaks of human achievements and great art.

“Although it’s located in France, it is part of great world art that informs our culture and heritage. We must all spring to action,” she said.