A French billionaire has pledged 100 million euros to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral as a defiant President Macron launches a national fundraising campaign to restore the building to its former glory.
The catastrophic blaze destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark as horrified Parisians looked on – many in tears and praying – on Monday evening.
A visibly emotional Macron, spoke outside the gothic cathedral and said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre Dame would be launched Tuesday, as he called on the world’s ‘greatest talents’ to help.
He said: ‘We will appeal to the greatest talents and we will rebuild Notre-Dame because that’s what the French are waiting for, because that’s what our history deserves, because it’s our deepest destiny.’
French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to Hollywood actress Salma Hayek, pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding of the cathedral.
Late on Monday evening French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault pledged 100 million euros (£86.2 million) towards the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was partly gutted by a devastating fire
Firefighters tackle the blaze on Monday evening as flames and smoke rise from the Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, left, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, right, answer reporters after watching the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral
In a statement the CEO of the Kering group, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion houses, said the money towards ‘the effort necessary to completely rebuild Notre-Dame’ would be paid by the Pinault family’s investment firm Artemis.
Macron had earlier cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening to respond to months of protests, and instead headed to the scene in person.
He said while the ‘worst had been avoided’ and the facade and two towers saved, ‘the next hours will be difficult’.
Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said ‘we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved’ as well as the two towers.
Smoke is seen around the alter inside Notre Dame cathedral on Monday evening. Miracolously the cross and altar have managed to survive the inferno
Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, also present at the scene on Monday evening, said that for the first time ‘the fire had decreased in intensity’ while still urging ‘extreme caution’.
The Vatican on Monday expressed its ‘incredulity’ and ‘sadness’, expressing ‘our closeness with French Catholics and with the Parisian population.’
The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed. The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.
French prosecutors said it was being treated as an ‘involuntary’ fire, indicating that foul play was ruled out for now.