French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the Notre-Dame cathedral which was hit by a devastating fire, saying the historic Paris landmark was the “epicentre of our life”, as donations rolled in to help a reconstruction effort.
Mr Macron appeared in front of the still-burning cathedral before midnight on Monday, hours after a fire started in the building’s roof and quickly spread.
“We were able to build this cathedral more than 800 years ago and over the centuries to enlarge it and improve it, and I tell you very solemnly this evening, this cathedral — we will rebuild it, all together,” Mr Macron said, announcing a fund for reconstruction.
“Notre-Dame de Paris is our history, our literature, the life of our imagination, the place where we have lived all our great moments, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations. It’s the epicentre of our life,” he said. “It’s a cathedral of all the French even when they have never been to it. This history is ours, and it is burning.”
Some of France’s richest families also promised hundreds of millions of euros to help restore the cathedral, considered a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture and one of the world’s best known and most visited monuments.
President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron went to the fire scene on Monday night © YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock
The Arnault family, owner of luxury group LVMH, pledged €200m to help with the efforts. “The Arnault family and the LVMH Group, in solidarity with this national tragedy, are associated with the reconstruction of this extraordinary cathedral, symbol of France, its heritage and its unity,” a statement said on Tuesday.
The Pinault family, owner of luxury conglomerate Kering and family holding company Artemis, pledged €100m to help with restoration efforts.
“This tragedy strikes all the French and beyond all those who are attached to the spiritual values,” said Francois Henri Pinault, president of Artemis, in a statement.
“Faced with such a tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage.” He said that Artemis would fund €100m “to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre-Dame.”
Major fire breaks out at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris
Authorities were on Tuesday continuing to assess the damage to the fabric of the medieval structure and some of the artefacts inside.
About 500 firefighters struggled through the night to bring the flames under control. French authorities said they thought they had saved the stone structure of the building, even though the collapse of the blazing roof is certain to have damaged priceless works of art in the main body of the cathedral.
About 500 firefighters struggled for hours to extinguish the flames that engulfed the Notre-Dame cathedral © AFP
However some statues had already been removed in the renovation work that had been taking place at the time of the fire.
Valérie Pécresse, leader of France’s Île-de-France region, said the region would release €10m of “emergency aid to help the archbishop to make the first work” of reconstruction.
“This reconstruction, which will obviously cost a lot, will mobilise a whole country, the best architects, the best craftsmen in France, maybe the world, we will tackle it now,” she said on Radio Classique on Tuesday morning