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The Billionaires Who Pledged to Rebuild Notre Dame Haven’t Paid a Cent

The Billionaires Who Pledged to Rebuild Notre Dame Haven’t Paid a Cent

When the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire in April, the sight of the burning structure—a historic monument that served as the heartbeat of the city itself—was a difficult one to take in, both for locals and tourists alike. The blaze, whose cause was linked to renovation work, damaged much of the nearly 1,000-year-old cathedral, though both iconic belfry towers were saved.

Soon after the incident, fashion industry billionaires swiftly stepped up and claimed they would donate funds to rebuild it. First up was François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and CEO of the luxury conglomerate Kering, and his wife, Salma Hayek, who pledged 100 million euros; soon after, Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH, upped the ante and pledged 200 million euros. Then, a group of other wealthy donors reportedly raised 600 million euros as well.

It was a jaw-dropping display of wealth—which some deemed superficial and unnecessary, when there are so many other issues at hand in the country—but many praised the pledges, too. Flash-forward to today, and the Notre-Dame cathedral is still undergoing a major clean-up. For weeks, workers have been clearing away the toxic lead dust from its forecourt and working to restore the edifice.

Yet, despite the moves forward, Notre-Dame still hasn’t seen any of these big-number donations initially promised a few months back. This week, a report from Bloomberg emerged claiming that these so-called savior billionaires have, in fact, not yet made good on their promises to fund the cathedral’s restoration. “The big donors haven’t paid. Not a cent,” Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre-Dame told the publication. “They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees’ salaries.”

Instead, as Bloomberg reported, it has been mainly American and French individuals who have provided the first donations, set up through various Notre-Dame charitable foundations. They have been providing funds to pay the salaries of more than 150 workers employed by the cathedral. This month, the cathedral is finally receiving its first transferred payment for the reconstruction, valued at 3.6 million euros.

Still, not all hope is lost for Notre-Dame’s future. This past weekend, on Saturday, it even celebrated its first mass since the fire; the archbishop of Paris was there, wearing a hard hat, along with 30 other guests in attendance, mostly clergy or people who work on the site, as it remains closed to the public for security reasons.

As for when one can expect Notre-Dame cathedral to be up and running again, it’s up for debate. According to Bloomberg, French President Emmanuel Macron said work on the cathedral should be completed within five years, though it’s a timeline that that many French architects have deemed “overly ambitious.” Surely, the delivery of promised funds would help the revival of France’s beloved symbol.