Two French billionaires who pledged £270million to help rebuild Notre Dame after its roof was burned away have handed over £18million after being publicly shamed.
Bernard Arnault, who owns Fendi and Louis Vitton, and Francois Pinault, who owns Gucci, handed over the money as a ‘down payment’ to help secure the building so that restoration work can start.
But other billionaires who pledged another £490million between them have largely failed to cough up because they are waiting to see what the French government is planning before they decide which bits they want to pay for.
It comes after Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame, revealed last month that the big-name donors ‘haven’t paid, not a cent.’
The French government this week passed a three-part bill on the reconstruction, the first part of which aims to organise the £762million in private donations that were pledged in the days immediately after the blaze.
Under this plan, it is thought that donors will drip-feed money into the construction as and when it is requested.
The second and third parts of the bill create a new organising committee to oversee the work, and aim to cut red tape so the project can be completed within an ambitious five-year timetable.
The fire started in Notre Dame’s Gothic spire before engulfing the wooden roof and causing part of the stone vaulted ceiling to collapse into the nave below.
Specialist teams are still working to make the building safe amid fears of a further collapse because the fire left it structurally unsound.
Some parts of the building are so delicate, they are currently only accessed by remote-controlled robots.
The Foundation Notre Dame, which is managing the project on behalf of the state, estimates this work will take around four months to complete.
It will involved building a second scaffold around the burned scaffolding in order to remove it, before a large canopy is constructed over the building to keep it safe from the elements while the restoration is carried out.
Spokesmen for both Arnault – the world’s second-richest man – and Pinault confirmed to CBS on July 5 that they had paid 10million euros each towards securing the site after receiving a request from the foundation.
Another charitable group, the Fondation du Patrimoine, is preparing to make a £22million payment towards the reconstruction, though it is not clear exactly where this money has come from.
French energy company Total, and Chairman Patick Pouyanne, are signed up to donate through this foundation.
But French officials told AP that other donors officials are holding back, waiting for plans to become more concrete so they can choose where their money is spent.
It is not yet clear exactly how the restoration will be carried out or what the final appearance of the cathedral will be.
Emmanuel Macron has suggested that the spire – which was not part of the original design but a later addition – could be rebuilt with a modern twist, angering some who say it should be put back exactly as it was.