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Notre-Dame Donations: €1 Billion Well-Spent or Wasted?

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

Katie Byng-Hall Investigates The Corporate Response To Notre-Dames Recent Fire.

Photo by Bennett Tobias


On the evening of 15th April 2019, a fire began in Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral. Over the ensuing hours, the cathedral’s roof sustained significant damage, and its spire collapsed.


Although the devastation was not as extensive as feared, France mourned the damage to one of the country’s iconic national treasures. In the days after the fire, French companies and wealthy tycoons flocked to donate to the restoration of the cathedral’s roof.


The French oil company Total gave €100 million, while multi- billionaire owner of Gucci and Louis Vuitton Bernard Arnault contributed €200 million, arguably in an attempt to outdo his business rival François Pinault who initially only donated €100 million (although it seems silly to use the word ‘only’ regarding such huge sums).


While some have applauded this generosity, others argue that the money could have been used more honourably for more urgent causes, such as the battles against environmental destruction, climate change and poverty.


The construction of Notre-Dame as we know it began in 1163, with additional features added in the following centuries making it a fascinating encapsulation of both medieval and gothic architecture. As French President Emmanuel Macron said in his statement after the fire,