French are grieving the loss of their iconic cathedral, which was partially destroyed by an inferno that raged for more than nine hours on Monday evening. The cause of the fire, which triggered the collapse of the roof and Notre Dame’s infamous spire, is still not clear but officials said it may be linked to the renovation works underway – which experts believe came too late. The French Government set aside just £40m over the next decade (€34.56) for the work, with the church forced to try and raise the £129.55m (€150m) total through donations.
Marie-Claude Gauvard, a medieval historian and author of a book on the Gothic cathedral, said: “The means were not provided to maintain it.
“The renovation work was finally started and it was high time, and perhaps a bit late.”
Stéphane Bern, a television presenter who was appointed by Mr Macron to raise funds for French monuments, voiced his anger over the lack of fundings dedicated to taking care of Notre Dame, the most visited monument in France and one of the most famous cathedrals in the world.
He said: “Notre Dame is part of our history and of the French nation.
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“For me, a close friend is leaving us”.
Mr Bern went on saying the collapsing spire was “symptomatic of what we are living through, a society in which everything goes up in flames.”
And he attacked Mr Macron for not letting him raise money to dedicate to the cathedral’s renovation works by charging an entrance fee for visitors.
He said: “In 1905 there were millions of worshippers and a few thousand visitors at Notre Dame de Paris.
“Today there are 14 million tourists and a few thousand worshippers.
“How can you maintain the place in these conditions?”
All French churches, including the cathedral, have been receiving only the minimum Government funding since 1905, both for lack of fundings and to respect France’s secularism.
The current renovation works, which should have been focused on the crumbling stone, the roof and rotting gargoyles have been funded thanks to a campaign launched by the Catholic Church in 2018.
But the works were held up even because they had to be approved and monitored by too many institutions, Ms Gauvard said.
Mr Macron, who spoke of a “terrible tragedy” upon arriving on the grounds of Notre Dame less than three hours after the fire broke out, pledged to rebuild the cathedral.
He said: “We’ll rebuild this cathedral all together and it’s undoubtedly part of the French destiny and the project we’ll have for the coming years.
“That’s what the French expect and because it’s what our history deserves.”
Two French billionaires have already vowed to donate £260m to rebuild Notre Dame.
Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive officer of luxury brand Louis Vuitton, announced last night his family will donate £172.7m (€200m), while François-Henri Pinault, the president of Groupe Artémis which controls many luxury brands including Gucci, promised to give £86.3m (€100m) to help.