The Price Tag of Notre Dame
Natalie Tongue discusses the after-math of the burning of Notre Dame and where the donations for it’s re-build have originated.
April 15, 2019. France stood still in grief as the great Notre Dame burns. The auburn sky, masked by smoke, marks the fall of one of Europe’s most renowned landmarks, central to Parisian hearts. To all who enjoy basking in architectural magnificence, the desolation of Notre Dame was a heavy loss. “It’s hard to overstate the prominence of Notre Dame in the French psyche,” Clémence Michallon wrote for the Independent the night of the fire. “No one ever expected to grieve for Notre Dame.”
As the city ground to a halt, billionaires searched their pockets and made themselves heroes of the hour. “I will donate to its reconstruction, I will revive Notre Dame”. François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek promised €100 million. Pledges of money flew in from all angles.
April 16, 2019. L’Oreal, the Bettencourt Meyers family, and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation promised a donation of €200 million for the repair of the Cathedral. It comes as no shock that billionaires enjoy stock-piling their wealth over donating to humanitarian causes. A Twitter account targeting Jeff Bezos for his extortionate wealth has recently become popular, attracting over 38,000 followers. Bezos has a net worth of $165 billion, and as the Twitter account @HasBezosDecided observes, the IFPRI believes it would cost $11 billion to end world hunger annually. The multi-billionaire has not ended world hunger. I don’t imagine he will do so any time soon. I suppose, then, the only surprise that comes with billionaires donating to the reconstruction of a cultural piece of the Parisian skyline, is that they are willing to part with any money in the first place. But architecture is certainly a more deserving cause than the impoverished, right?
“Evidently the ‘Magic Money Tree’ May claimed didn’t exist can always grow so long as the fruit isn’t for the working class or People of Colour.”
The Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest organisations in the world. With the means to restore the Notre Dame one hundred times over, the Church has refrained from pledging anything itself, instead watching regular people donate for their beloved building to be repaired. The billionaires who did offer a share of their pennies are yet to keep their word. Andre Finot, Senior press official at Notre-Dame said “the big donors haven’t paid. Not a cent”. Instead, the majority of funding has so far come from donations to the Friends of Notre Dame charity.
Theresa May, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, tolled the bells at Westminster Abbey, and promised to support efforts to reconstruct the building. Isn’t it ironic that the UK pledged to support reconstruction efforts of a Cathedral, yet every single soul left homeless after the Grenfell fire goes ignored? Yet the nearly 5,000 rough sleepers in Britain as of Autumn 2018 go ignored? Yet every person relying on foodbanks, the number of which has increased by 19% since the previous year, goes ignored? Evidently the ‘Magic Money Tree’ May claimed didn’t exist can always grow so long as the fruit isn’t for the working class or People of Colour.