Scaffolding surrounds the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris April 15. CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters

New fundraiser launched for rebuilding of Notre Dame in Paris

By  Deirdre C. Mays, Catholic News Service
  • April 22, 2021

A novel fundraising approach to restore one of the most iconic monuments in the world, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, enables donors to have a piece of history.

On April 15, Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris unveiled an interactive website — restorenotredame.org — that allows people to donate by adopting or sponsoring pieces of precious art and artifacts that were damaged in a 2019 fire. Donors can engage with the objects of their choosing and select which they’d like to help restore, whether it is a painting or statue. Funds can also go toward the cathedral’s restoration as a whole.

The organization was established in 2017 to help cover the cost of repairing damages caused by time, pollution and the use of inferior stone used in construction of the 12th-century Gothic landmark. The cathedral had not had any major repairs since the mid-1800s, so the group launched an international campaign to raise the $135 million (U.S.) needed for those essential renovations — augmented by a $45 million budget from the French government.

On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out in the attic and completely consumed the timber roof and spire. The burning debris and melted lead from the roof fell on top of a stone vault below. Most sections of the cathedral remained intact due to the rib vaulting, and most of the precious art and religious relics were saved.

After the fire, the mission of the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris had an even greater scope — rebuilding from ashes. Since the fire, more than $1 billion from more than 150 countries has been pledged to rebuild the cathedral, said Michel Picaud, president of Friends of Notre-Dame.

The massive project is currently in the safety phase, which should last until the summer of 2022, Picaud said.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most recognizable and beloved monuments in the world. More than 12 million people visited every year before the fire. As a result, the outpouring of support has been at a global level and from people of all belief systems.

The French government has set a target date to re-open the cathedral to the public in April 2024, but Picaud said there is no way of knowing the exact time this will happen. Restoration and rebuilding probably will continue for the next 10 years, he said, and will cost more than $1 billion.

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