Notre-Dame donations: Virtue-signalling for a tax break? – Bill Jamieson

Barely had the flames died down at Notre-Dame Cathedral than pledges of financial support for rebuilding began to pour in, writes Bill Jamieson.

Notre-Dame is to be rebuilt even more beautifully (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty)

A combined €800 million (£692 million) has already been pledged by a number of companies and business tycoons to help rebuild the Unesco World Heritage site in Paris.

The astonishing reverence for Notre Dame – by no means confined to France – is testimony to the huge emotional power that centuries-old buildings have over our lives.

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They are integral to our national story, part and parcel of where we came from and who we are.

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Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris suffers ‘colossal damage’ in inferno

Their magnetic attraction is well beyond their modern religious significance and reflects our constant desire to reaffirm our distinctive identity and belonging.

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has vowed it will be rebuilt “even more beautifully” and has pledged all donations will be tax deductible and set aside in a special fund. But the enormity of the response so far has already sparked misgivings that so much is being pledged for a physical building when the faith it represents has constantly espoused charitable works and the imperative to help the poor and the suffering.

Excessive virtue signalling for a tax break? Restoration work will be extensive and will take many years to complete.

But before this gets underway, searching questions will be asked as to whether the ultimate cost fairly reflects the underlying purpose and mission of the original building. Meanwhile, there may be an opportunity here to demonstrate how modern technology can be put to best use to preserve this astonishing building for another 800 years.

A hologram spire, for example, visible from space?