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Small donors, not french billionaires are paying to fix Notre Dame

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 the cathedral since the April 15 fire that devastated its roof and caused its masterpiece spire to collapse. This month they are handing over the first private payment for the cathedral’s reconstruction of 3.6 million euros ($4 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.

Almost $1 billion was promised by some of France’s richest and most powerful families and companies, some of whom sought to outbid each other, in the hours and days after the inferno.

Francois Pinault of Artemis, the parent company of Kering that owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, promised 100 million euros ($112 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 200 million euros ($224 million), as did the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L’Oréal fortune.

None of that money has been seen, as the donors ”wait to see how the reconstruction plans progress and fight it out over contracts.”

The reality on the ground at Notre Dame is that work has been continuing around the clock for weeks and the cathedral has had to rely partly on the charity foundations to fund the first phase of reconstruction.

An estimated 300 tons of lead that made up the cathedral’s roof melted or was released into the atmosphere during the fierce blaze, which sent out toxic dust. The city’s regional health agency says high levels of lead are now present in the soil of the island, the Ile de la Cite, and in nearby administrative buildings.

Two dedicated workers have been cleaning the toxic lead dust from the cathedral’s forecourt for weeks, and up to 148 more have been cleaning inside and outside the edifice as well as restoring it, according to Finot.

Workers are building a wooden walkway so they can remove 250 tons of burnt-out scaffolding that had been installed before the fire for the ill-fated restoration of Notre Dame’s spire. They will then replace the existing plastic protection with a bigger, more robust umbrella roof. After that, they will begin reconstructing the roof and vaulting.

Architectural experts are using digital models to try to establish how much damage the fire did to the cathedral’s 13th-century stone, and whether its structures are fundamentally sound.

“It doesn’t matter that the big donors haven’t yet paid because the choices about the spire and the major architectural decisions will happen probably late in 2020”. “That’s when the large sums of money will be required.”