Suicide stuns visitors to Notre Dame Cathedral
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bombs at mosque, restaurant in central Nigerian city kill 44
- Iraqi fighter jet drops bomb over Baghdad, kills 12 people
- Greece’s EU role hangs in limbo as voters reject bailout in referendum
- Iran nuclear deal teeters on ‘hard choices,’ Kerry says
- Wildfires break out in Spain, Portugal
- U.S.-led coalition unleashes wave of airstrikes on Raqqa, Syria
- Egypt claims to kill 63 terrorists in North Sinai
- Gene therapy for cystic fibrosis promising, study shows
- Pope comes ‘home’ to South America to defend planet and the poor
- Fans cheer as Princess Charlotte christened on British royal estate in Sandringham
- Iraq, ISIS urge Turks to release dam water