TribLIVE

| USWorld

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Suicide stuns visitors to Notre Dame Cathedral

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 9:54 p.m.
 

PARIS — About 1,500 visitors were cleared out of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris when a man put a letter on the altar of the 850-year-old monument on Tuesday, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

It's the first suicide in decades at the landmark site, said Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, the cathedral's rector.

“It's unfortunate, it's dramatic, it's shocking,” Jacquin said. The motives for the suicide, and the contents of the man's letter, were unclear.

The Paris prosecutor's office identified the man as 78-year-old Dominique Venner.

Venner's blog describes him as a historian and essayist, and includes description of his involvement in the campaign against France's new law authorizing gay marriage. In some posts he criticizes “massive immigration” and what he describes as encroaching Islam; others include historical analysis of revolution or American-European relations.

It says he fought with French forces against Algerian independence fighters a half-century ago in a war that ended with France losing its most prized colony.

Police ushered people out of the cathedral after the shooting, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters from the grand stone plaza in front of Notre Dame.

“We call for compassion,” he said.

“Notre Dame is the cathedral of Paris, one of the capital's — and the country's — most beautiful monuments, so we realize how symbolic this event truly is.”

It's highly unusual for the cathedral, visited by about 13 million people from around the world every year, to be evacuated.

Police, the Paris prosecutor and church employees gathered inside the cathedral, while puzzled tourists crowded outside on the island in the Seine River that has been home to the cathedral since the 12th century.

The cathedral reopened for an evening service that church officials said would include a prayer for the man who committed suicide and other struggling souls.

Tuesday's death comes less than a week after another unusual suicide in central Paris, when a man shot himself in front of a dozen schoolchildren at a private Catholic school in the French capital.

Jacquin said a few people had committed suicide by jumping from Notre Dame's two towers, but he had no knowledge of anyone ever committing suicide on the altar. The Eiffel Tower occasionally shuts down because of suicides or attempts to jump off its ledges.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read World

  1. Migrant impasse heads to Austria as Hungary offersbuses to border
  2. Twin blasts in Egypt’s Sinai rock troops in coalition
  3. 45 UAE troops die in Yemen explosion
  4. Syrian tomb towers latest cultural icons to be wiped out in terrorist rampage
  5. Egypt, sans parliament for more than 3 years, sets elections
  6. Migrant crisis forces European Union leaders to set summit
  7. Fire at Saudi oil company residence kills 11
  8. Temple in ancient Syrian city of Palmyra bombed by ISIS terrorists
  9. European Union struggles for answers as migrant influx raises tensions
  10. Afghan president calls for ‘holy war’ against corruption
  11. Hungary stands firm, keeps migrants from trains