Hollywood actress Salma Hayek has posted a gushing tribute to her billionaire husband’s generosity after he pledged 100 million euros to rebuild the Notre Dame – as total donations reached a billion euros last night.
The 52-year-old’s beau, Francois-Henri Pinault, pledged the enormous sum less than 24 hours after the fire devastated the Notre Dame.
Bernard Arnault of luxury goods group LVMH doubled the 100 million euros pledged by Mr Pinault, and other heavyweight donors include the Bettencourt family – owners of cosmetics giant L’Oreal – have given 200 million euros.
But the largesse of the billionaires and corporate giants raised questions among some French people over whether they had hidden motives such as seeking tax breaks – something Hayek was quick to dismiss in her lavish tribute to the Pinault family on Instagram.
Posting the snap with her husband and father-in-law on Wednesday, she said: ‘Today more than ever I feel proud to be part of the Pinault family.
‘Not only for their personal and heart felt participation in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris but also because their contribution wont be claiming any tax deductions from the government.
Salma Hayek (centre) posted a tribute to her husband (pictured left) and father-in-law (pictured right) after their donation to help rebuild the Notre Dame
Macron spoke to the French nation in a TV address on Tuesday evening to reassure people that the cathedral would be rebuilt within five years
Pinault, who married Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek in 2009, is chief executive of Kering, which owns brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent
‘My husband and father in law are two generous french citizens, who sincerely understand the importance of this spiritual, cultural and historical treasure from Paris to the world.’
There has been growing anger over the fact that wealthy donors can benefit from tax deductions of up to 66 per cent, depriving the French treasury of income.
Supporters of the Yellow Vest movement and left-wing activists expressed anger over the willingness and speed in which the wealthy donated.
Ingrid Levavasseur, a founding leader of the yellow vests, said: ‘There is growing anger on social media over the inertia of big corporations over social misery while they are proving able to mobilise a crazy amount of dosh overnight for Notre Dame.’
Despite the backlash, just two days after an inferno destroyed the spire of the ancient place of worship, the fund to rebuilt has reached the one billion euro mark – as President Macron said the cathedral would be rebuilt in five years time.
Stephane Bern, the TV personality who helped launch the appeal by saying Notre Dame was ‘a close friend who almost disappeared’ said on Wednesday morning: ‘The billion-euro mark of donations was reached during the day.’
Macron said in a televised address on Tuesday night that the cathedral would be rebuilt ‘even more beautifully’ within the next few years as he urged the French nation to ‘come together’.
France’s richest man Bernard Arnault (pictured with his wife Hélène in 2014), made an donation of 200 million euros (£172million) – doubling that of Francois-Henri Pinault
French multinational companies are among those who have pledged money to restore the medieval cathedral, which was engulfed by flames on Monday following a likely accident in its loft.
L’Oreal promised 200 million euros (£172.7m) on Tuesday, while the LVMH luxury goods group run by Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France, has pledged the same.
Multi-billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault and oil company Total have also pledged 100 million euros (£87m) each.
Other high-profile French donors included the investor Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere with 10 million euros, and construction magnates Martin and Olivier Bouygues, also with 10 million euros.
Among other firms, the Credit Agricole bank gave five million euros, while US private equity investor Henry Kravis has promised $10 (€8.8) million.
Corporate contributions are expected to climb, with blue-chip firms like Vinci, Michelin and BNP Paribas also saying they were weighing how to participate.
Air France said it would offer free flights to experts brought in to help with Notre-Dame’s renovation.
Such vast amounts of money mean it is almost certain that Macron’s claim the cathedral will be restored to its former glory ‘within five years’ looks extremely likely.
‘We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it,’ Macron said in a television address to the nation.
‘It is up to us to change this disaster into an opportunity to come together, having deeply reflected on what we have been and what we have to be and become better than we are. It is up to us to find the thread of our national project,’ he said.
But he also warned: ‘Let us not fall into the trap of haste.’
Macron said that the dramatic fire had brought out the best in a country that has been riven with divisions.
The sun rising over Notre Dame Cathedral on Wednesday morning as donations towards its renovation soared to one billion euros
Francois-Henri Pinault, married to actress Salma Hayak (pictured together in 2015), was the first to make a donation towards the rebuild of the cathedral
Another speedy donor to the fund to restore Notre Dame was the Bettencourt family (pictured left Jean-Pierre Meyers and his wife Francoise Bettencourt Meyers), who part-own L’Oreal – they’ve stumped up 200 million euros (£172million). Mark (pictured right with his wife Melissa) and Oliver Bouygues, who own construction, media and telecom companies, have donated 10 million euros
‘What we saw last night in Paris was our capacity to mobilise and to unite,’ the 41-year-old leader said in the solemn address from his office in the presidential palace.
France had over the course of its history seen many towns, ports and churches go up in flames, he said.
‘Each time we rebuilt them,’ he said, adding that the cathedral inferno had shown that ‘our history never stops and that we will always have trials to overcome.’
Mr Macron’s aim to complete the restoration within such a short timeframe was at odds with some experts’ estimates that the project would take decades.
It came as the iconic rooster weathervane that topped the spire of Notre Dame before it was destroyed by fire has been found in the rubble.
In what is being described as ‘an absolute miracle’, France’s Ministry of Culture confirmed that ‘the rooster has been saved’.
‘It’s dented but can be restored,’ said a spokesman. ‘The fear was that it had been burnt and melted in the fire.’
Shocked crowds watched the rooster fall to the ground on Monday evening as a fire engulfed the cathedral and destroyed its wooden and lead spire.
Firefighters tackle the blaze on Monday evening as flames and smoke rise from the Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris
Macron said he would be looking to rebuild the church ‘even more beautifully than it was before’ and urged the nation to come together over the disaster
There was particularly fear for the rooster, because it contains religious relics including one of the 70 thorns of the Holy crown of Jesus Christ, and remnants linked to Saint Denis, the Christian martyr and former bishop of Paris, and Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of the French capital.
According to cathedral guides, the rooster had acted as ‘spiritual lightening rod’ to protect the Notre Dame faithful.
Jacques Chanut, the president of the French Building Federation, shared a picture of the damaged rooster on Twitter.
‘Fire at Notre Dame – the Culture Ministry announces that the rooster on the spire of the cathedral has been found.’