France will invite architects from around the world to submit their designs for rebuilding the Notre-Dame cathedral spire that toppled dramatically during a devastating blaze, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said Wednesday, reports FRANCE 24.
France will be looking for "a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era", Philippe told reporters, a day after President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral "even more beautifully" within five years.
Thousands of Parisians and tourists watched in horror Monday as flames engulfed a monument that has symbolised Paris for nearly a millennium, toppling the spire and gutting a large part of the roof.
No sooner had firefighters extinguished the flames than pledges of donations towards rebuilding it began to pour in. Within 24 hours, the pledges had reached more than 800 million euros ($900 million), with French business magnates and corporations jostling to outshine each other with displays of generosity.
Nearly $1 billion in total has been pledged so far.
But the slew of announcements raised eyebrows in France, with some leftist politicians arguing that the ultra-rich could best help protect the country's cultural heritage by fully paying their taxes – or by helping the "human cathedral" of people in need.
François-Henri Pinault, the billionaire CEO of the Kering luxury goods empire, announced he would forfeit the tax breaks offered on donations. French corporations are eligible for a 60-percent tax rebate on cultural donations.
"The donation for Notre-Dame of Paris will not be the object of any tax deduction. Indeed, the Pinault family considers that it is out of the question to make French taxpayers shoulder the burden," Pinault said in a statement.
Pinault had led the pledges of donations starting Monday night with a promise of 100 million euros.
The government on Wednesday increased the rebate on individual donations for Notre-Dame of up to 1,000 euros to 75 percent. Bigger private donations would qualify for the standard 66 percent rebate.
Billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH luxury conglomerate, Total oil company and cosmetics giant L'Oreal also each pledged 100 million euros or more, while US tech giant Apple said it would give an unspecified amount.
Macron has set out an ambitious timeline for rebuilding the cathedral, an enduring symbol of Paris that had survived revolutions and wars throughout the ages.