Notre Dame fire: Pope joins Paris in sorrow, Vatican offers technical expertise

Sunday, 21 Apr, 2019

France's luxury-goods tycoons pledged 300 million euros ($339 million) to help in the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral after the Paris landmark was ravaged by fire on Monday, answering a call from President Emmanuel Macron for a fund-raising campaign.

He was very much impressed by the over-800-year-old wooden structure at the time, Wang said, but now the fire has destroyed the spire, "it's like a page from the history of architecture being torn out".

The 3-meter-tall copper figures, which looked over the city from Notre Dame's 96-meter-high peak, were sent to southwestern France for work that is part of a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the cathedral spire and its 250 tons of lead. No one was killed but a firefighter was seriously injured.

Passers-by laid flowers on bridges crossing the Seine River as Parisians gave thanks to see the bell towers standing valiantly after the fire.

Indeed, according to officials, the 400 firefighters who battled the blaze at Notre Dame were able to save enough of the building to ensure that the cathedral can be rebuilt. In the USA, private-equity titan Henry Kravis and his wife, Marie-Josee Kravis, will give $10 million, they said.

Within hours, pledges of donations amounting to almost 700 million euros ($790 million) had flooded in from some of France's richest families and companies and foreign governments were lining up with offers of help.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said work must begin immediately to protect the remaining structure.

He assured all the people of France of his spiritual closeness and prayers during Holy Week, as the Church recalls Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection. Their largesse raised questions among some French people over whether they had hidden motives such as seeking tax breaks. "Notre Dame means something to everybody". "It's part of our collective identity, and now we're suffering a common grief", she told the Wall Street Journal.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said there is no evidence of arson and that investigators are working under the assumption that the inferno was an accident.

A centuries-old crown of thorns made from reeds and gold, and the tunic believed to have been worn by Saint Louis, a 13th century king of France, were saved, Notre Dame's top administrative cleric, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said. But had Adolf Hitler's dying Nazi regime survived just a few more days, and German forces obeyed his order to let Paris burn, Notre-Dame might have been reduced to ruins 75 years ago.

In its more than 800-year history, Notre Dame has undergone extensive and costly restorations to fix and restore one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. François-Henri Pinault, who manages the family's businesses, is married to actress Salma Hayek.

Offers of assistance flowed in from around the world to help restore the 12th century tourist attraction to its former glory.

Members of the public were also donating money in response to appeals by France's heritage foundation, the Fondation du Patrimoine and President Emmanuel Macron.