As sections of Notre Dame Cathedral still smoldered, pledges began pouring in to rebuild the Paris landmark.
The effort toward the resurrection of the historic cathedral—which 200-foot-high flames consumed Monday while a stunned world watched—began immediately, as Christians worldwide observe Holy Week.
As flames ripped through the roof and into the spire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday night, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed his citizens.
Looking distraught, he said: “Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations … I’m telling you all tonight — we will rebuild this cathedral together. This is probably part of the French destiny.”
The response was immediate.
Bernard Arnault, one of the world’s richest men, is donating 200 million euros to fund the reconstruction of Notre Dame – that’s about $226 million. Arnault and his family announced the donation via their company’s Twitter account.
Arnault is the head of LVMH, a massive company with 70 worldwide brands under its umbrella, including Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Marc Jacobs. With a net worth of more than $90 billion, Arnault and his family are ranked fourth-richest in the world by Forbes.
The French family and their Paris-based company announced their contribution to Notre Dame on Tuesday, the day after the major fire at the iconic cathedral. “The Arnault family and LVMH Group, in solidarity with this national tragedy, are committed to assist with the reconstruction of this extraordinary, symbol of France its heritage and its unity,” their statement read.
The Arnaults are not alone in their altruism.
Macron continued on to say that France planned to start an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the renovations.
He may have a major head start on that campaign, thanks to billionaire François-Henri Pinault, who has already pledged more than 100 million euros to rebuild the cathedral. According to the AFP, Pinault said in a statement that he plans to provide the money through his family’s investment firm, Artemis — funding that he hopes will help church officials “completely rebuild Notre Dame.”
Likewise, major global companies have pledged hefty donations.
French companies including L’Oreal and luxury groups LVMH and Kering have pledged millions of euros to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was severely damaged in a fire Monday night.
Kering owns labels such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, while LVMH’s star brands include Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Moet & Chandon champagne.
Meanwhile, cosmetics group L’Oreal and its majority shareholder the Bettencourt Meyers family and the Bettencourt Schueller foundation said they would donate 200 million euros, according to a Reuters report.
Donors shared their intentions on social media.
Following the terrible fire that damaged Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most iconic monuments of Paris and France, we pledge our support for #NotreDame by donating 100M euros to @Fond_Patrimoine to help the reconstruction of this architectural jewel. https://t.co/Kqszwy9XUJ
— Total (@Total) April 16, 2019
"In the wake of this national tragedy, the Arnault family and the LVMH Group pledge their support for #NotreDame. They will donate a total of 200 million euros to the fund for reconstruction of this architectural work, which is an integral part of the history of France." pic.twitter.com/utvJT8xJht
— LVMH (@LVMH) April 16, 2019
« Cette tragédie frappe tous les Français et bien au-delà, tous ceux qui sont attachés aux valeurs spirituelles et au patrimoine. » François-Henri Pinault #notredamedeparis 1/2 pic.twitter.com/NAPUNzyU1G
— Kering (@KeringGroup) April 16, 2019
A world in shock
In heartbreaking images broadcast worldwide, fire spread quickly from its wooden spire to other parts of the roof; both the spire and roof would ultimately collapse. The bell towers and world-famous rose window survived the blaze, as did parts of the interior, including the cross in the apse.
An iconic example of French Gothic architecture, the cathedral—which had endured the French Revolution, World War I and World War II—was being renovated. Early reports suggest that those renovation efforts might have played a part in igniting the blaze.
The news made headlines around the globe, and viewers turned to TV and online feeds to witness the fire’s tragic progression.
World leaders were among the multitudes expressing their grief.
Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can. pic.twitter.com/SpMEvv1BzB
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 15, 2019
Notre-Dame is aflame. Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight. https://t.co/27CrJgJkJb
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 15, 2019
Today we unite in prayer with the people of France, as we wait for the sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope with reconstruction. Holy Mary, Our Lady, pray for us. #NotreDame
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 16, 2019
The age of misinformation
As many communicators and media outlets rushed to cover the story, misinformation made its way around social media, again highlighting the care communicators must take when sourcing content, updates and commentary.
At BuzzFeed, Jane Lytvynenko shows how one Twitter account misrepresenting itself as CNN falsely stated that the fire was the work of terrorists, and how another misrepresenting itself as Fox News posted a fake quote from a Muslim congresswoman allegedly saying “they reap what they sow.” (She said no such thing.) Both accounts put “parody” in their bios, but their visual branding copied CNN and Fox News exactly, there was nothing evidently parodic about their tweets, and few people likely clicked to check their bios before retweeting them.
On Facebook, a 2016 story about a plot to blow up a car outside the cathedral was linked from a site that regularly spreads Islamophobic misinformation, with no clear sign that it was totally unrelated to the fire. (Facebook’s story designs don’t make it clear when pages re-share older articles.)
And on YouTube, well … this happened. From Chris Welch:
A fire has broken out at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral today, and, as you’d expect, many news networks are offering live coverage of the breaking situation. What’s a little more unusual is that YouTube seemed to temporarily mix up the unfortunate burning of a historic cathedral with the 9/11 New York City terror attacks.
Underneath live streams from CBS and others, viewers saw an explainer for the September 11th, 2001, attacks. These two things are completely unrelated, and there has been no indication that the Notre Dame fire is a result of terrorism or even criminal arson.
Confusion online forced Notre Dame University in Indiana to offer a simple rebuttal on its Twitter feed.
A clarification: A fire is currently burning at @notredameparis, not the University of Notre Dame. Our prayers are with all those involved.
— Notre Dame (@NotreDame) April 15, 2019