The Controversy Surrounding The Millions Being Donated To Notre Dame's Rehabilitation
In the course of its 850-year existence, the Notre Dame Cathedral has been an icon to millions and millions from all over the world. It's difficult to accept, without the slightest hint of anxiety, that the Parisian landmark had come close to obliteration just last week due to a fire that ripped through its interiors and continued to burn overnight.
Serious worshippers and casual travelers alike have marveled at its spiritural, cultural, and historical significance for as long as history books have been recording the numbers, but now that the Cathedral is in dire need of help, who will come to its rescue?
France's three wealthiest families, as it seems, have voluntarily carried the burden of providing financial aid crucial to the rehabilitation and restoration of one of France's most beloved structures, donating millions to hasten the process of returning the Notre Dame to its former glory.
Here's a quick rundown of who donated how much, so far:
Bernard Arnault?, LVMH CEO and chairman
With Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Rimowa, Bvlgari, Benefit Cosmetics, Fenty Beauty, Guerlain, and Make Up Forever tucked neatly in his thick portfolio of French top tier brands and international subsidiaries, Bernard Arnault and his family have given €200 million to the Notre Dame repair efforts.
The Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation
You might have not heard of this organization that exists to aid medical, cultural, and humanitarian projects, but you definitely know the brand that the woman behind it—French heiress and socialite Liliane Bettencourt—supports: L'Oréal. Like Bernard Arnault, they've donated a total of €200 million as of today.
Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and Stella McCartney are just some of the brands collectively housed under Kering's luxury umbrella, a company owned by French fashion tycoon François-Henri Pinault?. The businessman, who is married to Mexican Hollywood actress Salma Hayek, has given €100 million to the cause.
While the press instinctively lauded the efforts of large-scale donors, things have taken a turn for the worse and many have shared opposing opinions on the true motives of these donations.
Keeping in mind France's generous policy on tax deductions gained from charitable initiatives (companies can shave of a whopping 60% off of their taxes and individuals an even more appealing 66%, for example), there are many who seem to think these families have simply leveraged on the Notre Dame tragedy and turned it into an opportunistic, rather than a selfless, act.
Reports surfacing about the national government ignoring Notre Dame's caretakers and historians, who have lobbied for more funds to be allocated to the heritage site's protection, have added to the discord.
The question they ask is why it took a highly-publicized tragedy to get those with the means to help to move, rather than have done the same in silence years ago when help had been needed as early as then.
However, Salma Hayek was quick to respond to these claims and said that her husband would not be claiming the tax benefits provided by his sizable donation, mirroring her husband's words from last week about showing solidarity with his fellow Frenchmen and working towards the protection of one of his country's greatest treasures—nothing more.
The other families listed above have not addressed the issue yet.
Meanwhile, French companies including oil company Total, advertising organization JCDecaux, bank BNP, and other international benefactors have also offered financial aid to the cathedral's repair, a project estimated to cost billions and years, perhaps even at least a decade, to complete.
The goal is to finish all work before 2024, the year when France is scheduled to host the summer Olympics.
As of this writing, an estimate of €880 million has been raised, with a ballpark figure of €500 million coming from France's billionnaires.
Photos from @salmahayek @studioalmera