Paris, Jun 15 : The billionaire French tycoons who pledged hundreds of millions in financial aid to rebuild Notre Dame cathedral in Paris have not yet paid a penny toward the restoration of the national monument, according to church and business officials.
Instead, it's mainly American and French individuals, via Notre Dame charitable foundations, that are behind the first donations paying the bills and salaries for up to 150 workers employed by Notre Dame since an April 15 fire devastated its roof and caused its masterpiece spire to collapse, said an ABC news report on Saturday.
This month they are handing over the first private payment for the cathedral's reconstruction of $5.8 million."The big donors haven't paid. Not a cent," said Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame."They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees' salaries."
More than $1 billion was promised by some of France's richest and most powerful families and companies, several of whom sought to outbid each other, in the hours and days after the inferno.
It prompted criticism that the donations were as much about the vanity of the donors wishing to be immortalised in the edifice's fabled stones than the preservation of France's heritage.
Francois Pinault of Artemis, the parent company of Kering that owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, promised $163 million, while Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of French energy company Total, said his firm would match that figure.Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury giant LVMH that owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, pledged $327 million, as did the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L'Oréal fortune.
None of that money has been seen, according to Mr Finot, as the donors wait to see how the reconstruction plans progress and fight it out over contracts.The first stone of Notre Dame de Paris was laid in 1163, with the iconic building becoming the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and one of the most beloved structures in the world.A group of about 30 people will gather at the cathedral on Saturday evening (local time) to celebrate the first mass since the fire.