On April 15th, 2019, the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in France experienced a horrific fire that will forever change the famous structure forever.
In the late hours of April 15th, 2019, Paris’ iconic city skyline was forever altered. The Notre Dame Cathedral saw a fire erupt within the church causing extensive damage to the 856 year old structure. Firefighters were sent to battle the flames, but the building suffered irreversible damage. The building’s 13th century oak roof was totally destroyed. Witnesses saw its iconic spire collapse and fall as well. The blaze was not eradicated until the very early hours of April 16th. While some of the external façade faced irreparable damage, the church’s two towers were spaced as well as artifacts within the place of worship. The Crown of Thorns that was allegedly worn by Jesus during his crucifixion was spared along with the Tunic of St. Louis, the church’s stain glass windows, and the its famous organ.
According to French Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez the cathedral was declared “structurally sound.” However, some vulnerabilities are still present. Moreover, inspectors worry about the structural damage that may be hidden.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who bore witness to the tragedy, declared, “This history is ours. And it burns. It burns and I know the sadness so many of our fellow French feel.” The French President pledged to rebuild the over eight century old church, launching an international fundraising campaign to raise the necessary funds. Currently, the campaign has raised between “$835 million to nearly $1 billion,” according to The Washington Post. Most of the funds came from the wealthiest families in France. Luxury goods magnate François-Henri Pinault donated $112 million with the Bettencourt Meyers family, which control L’Oréal, and other notable French elites donating as well.
However, this international fundraising campaign has raised eyebrows from all around the world. Many critics, including France’s yellow vest movement, point out that the country is facing several protests over social inequality and that these funds show that a building is more important than the wellbeing of French citizens. Philipp Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, a French national trade union center, stated, “If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency.” Some of the donors defended their donations. Bernard Arnault, the richest man in Europe and one of the donors, declared, “It’s an empty controversy. It’s pretty dismaying to see that in France you are criticized even for doing something for the general interest.
While Notre Dame experienced a tragedy, the international community has vowed to rebuild the Parisian wonder until it is fully restored. However, it does not come without controversy. Some French citizens see the donations to Notre Dame as social inequality while some see it as a gesture of support to rebuild a French icon. While there are mixed opinions, the international community and the people of France are still determined to see Notre Dame, a French legacy, be rebuilt.