• France's news in English
 

Far-right figure kills himself at Notre Dame

Published: 21 May 2013 16:44 GMT+02:00

Far-right historian and gay marriage opponent Dominique Venner walked up to the altar in the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday and took his own life by shooting himself in the head in front of shocked visitors.

Venner reportedly pulled out a gun and shot himself some time after 2pm, forcing the evacuation of the famous cathedral.

Police later named the man as 78-year-old writer and far-right essayist Dominique Venner. 

Venner, who specialized in weapons history, was the author of several history books and had close links to the far-right movement. He was once handed a prestigious award from the Academie Francaise for one of his works.

The rector of the cathedral, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, told AFP that Venner had laid a letter on the altar right before killing himself.

"We did not know him, he was not a regular at the cathedral," Jacquin said, adding that he believed it was the first time anyone had committed suicide inside the cathedral.

There has been speculation Venner's act may have been motivated by his firm opposition to gay marriage.

(Venner's final blog post)

The details of the suicide note are not yet known but Venner left a message, which was read out by a friend after his death on the conservative station Radio Courtoisie, and a final essay on his website.

They denounced both the recently passed law legalizing gay marriage and immigration from Africa.

"I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us," he said in the message read out on the radio.

"I am killing myself to awaken slumbering consciences." Venner's latest blog post, published earlier on Tuesday, called for "spectacular" action to protect France's identity.

In the post he makes a reference to the mass protest against gay marriage which is planned for May 26th.

"Protesters will be right to shout out their impatience and anger. A deplorable law, once passed, can always be repealed," he wrote.

In another blog post Venner wrote: "New, spectacular and symbolic gestures will certainly be necessary to shake the sleepiness, jolt our anaesthetized consciousness and awaken the memory of our origins. We are entering a time when words must be backed up by deeds. "

But Venner's publisher poured cold water on the idea the suicide could be related to his opposition to gay marriage.

The leader of France's far right movement Marine Le Pen tweeted a tribute to Venner in which she referred to his suicide as a "political act".

"All our respect to Dominique Venner, whose final act, eminently political, was an attempt to wake up the French people," Le Pen said.

"I do not think we can link his suicide to this case of marriage, it goes far beyond that," Pierre-Guillaume Roux told AFP. Roux said he had only spoken to Venner on Monday evening to discuss his next book, which is set to be published in June.

Venner had also been the editor of bimonthly history magazine Nouvelle Revue d'histoire, since it was created in 2002.

He was a paratrooper during France's war in Algeria and was a member of the OAS (Secret Armed Organization), a short-lived paramilitary group that opposed Algeria's independence from France.

France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls visited Notre Dame shortly after Venner's suicide and described the incident as "the act of a desperate man".

Around 1,500 people were reportedly inside Notre Dame Cathedral when it was evacuated. The famous church is currently in the middle of a year-long celebration to commemorate the historic building's 850th anniversary. A series of events have been planned throughout the year.

The incident comes less than a week after a man walked into a primary school in Paris and shot himself in the head in front of terrified children.

The man in his fifties, with a history of family problems shot himself in the head last Thursday in front of a dozen young children in the hall of a Catholic primary school.

The incident sparked a debate about security in French schools and whether metal detectors should be placed at entrances, like in the United States or Britain.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France opens probe into Qatar forced labour
Vinci and its QDVC subsidiary are facing a suit alleging forced labour in Qatar. Photo: AFP

France opens probe into Qatar forced labour

French prosecutors said Saturday they had opened a preliminary probe into a lobby group's claims that construction giant Vinci is using forced labour on building projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. READ  

Foiled Paris Church Attack
Thwarted French jihadist faces terror charges
The suspect is still being treated in a hospital in Paris. Photo: AFP

Thwarted French jihadist faces terror charges

An Algerian jihadist sympathiser arrested in connection with a thwarted attack on a church in France was charged with terror-related murder Friday after five days of police questioning. READ  

French recycling rates slammed as 'disastrous'
The "Triman" recycling logo next to trash containers in Paris. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

French recycling rates slammed as 'disastrous'

Less than a quarter of household waste in France is recycled according to a report this week, a statistic that a French consumer watchdog has described as “disastrous” and well below that of the country's European neighbours. READ  

Putin calls on Hollande to mend ties to help trade
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande arrive into the Genocide memorial, on April 24, 2015 in Yerevan. Photo: AFP

Putin calls on Hollande to mend ties to help trade

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his French counterpart François Hollande to restore ties that have been undermined by tension over Ukraine. For his part Hollande told Puting to ensure there the peace accords were implemented. READ  

French may be enforced on all flights to Canada

French may be enforced on all flights to Canada

It could soon become obligatory for all airlines serving Canada to ensure French speakers are among the crew and announcements are made in both French and English. The move was inspired by a row on an Air Canada flight over a can of lemonade. READ  

Foiled Paris church attack
Foiled terror suspect 'controlled' from Syria
Sid Ahmed Ghlam, who is suspected of planning a Charlie Hebdo style attack on churches in Paris. Photo: Screengrab iTele

Foiled terror suspect 'controlled' from Syria

The student suspected of planning to launch a terror attack on churches in Paris was to appear before judges on Friday as police become convinced he was "controlled remotely by mysterious men" probably in Syria. READ  

French prof suspended for 'defending Hitler'
The teacher allegedly told students Hitler was a "good man". Photo of a classroom: Shutterstock

French prof suspended for 'defending Hitler'

A teacher at a high school in central France has been temporarily suspended after her pupils reported her to education chiefs for allegedly repeatedly defending Adolf Hitler during German lessons. READ  

Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide
French president François Hollande arrives in Armenia for a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Photo: AFP

Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide

French president François Hollande has urged Turkey to end its refusal to recognise the massacre of Armenians during World War One. READ  

Indonesia prepares to execute Frenchman
French drug convict and death row prisoner Serge Atlaoui (C) is escorted by police upon his arrival at Tangerang court outside Jakarta on April 1, 2015. Photo: AFP

Indonesia prepares to execute Frenchman

Desperate diplomatic calls from France and the EU urging Indonesia to spare the life of a Frenchman on death row appear have fallen on deaf ears with the convicted drug trafficker set to be executed in the coming days. READ  

Mediterranean Migrants Crisis
France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats
Amnesty International activists and migrants protest before a meeting of the European Council on Mediterranean migrants crisis in Brussels, on April 23, 2015. Photo: AFP

France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats

France will go to the UN to try to get backing for the EU to destroy boats used by migrant traffickers in the Mediterranean. Paris also joined Berlin and London in pledging more ships and aircraft after an emergency summit in Brussels. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How to disguise the fact you are clearly not French
France desperately hunts for church terror plot accomplices
Can France really protect 4,500 churches around the country?
WARNING - When in France use first names with caution
So what does the world's oldest bubbly taste like?
British expats left in lurch by NHS clampdown
Tossing cigarette butts in Paris to prompt €68 fines
Culture
Cannes Film Festival reveals jury
Flamanville: France's nuclear 'calamity' that has the UK worried
Features
Forget the Mona Lisa, here's the weirdest objects you can see around Paris
For many Britons 'Waterloo' is just an Abba song or a train station
IN PICTURES: See the French ship 'Hermione' set sail again for the US
Opinion
Is it time the French scrapped tu and vous?
National
Sexual harassment rife on Paris trains
National
Marine Le Pen makes Time 'most influential' list
Cannes Film Festival line-up revealed
National
Cartoonist's book slams 'Islamophobia swindlers'
National
More French women than men lured by Isis
Society
Les Entrepreneurs: We chat with the founder of Paris Picnic
National
Edith Piaf celebrated at Parisian exhibit
How the health reforms will change life in France
Gallery
Naked protests: The French love to take their clothes off to make a point
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Then and now - the site of the Alps plane crash
Travel
So why would anyone really want to live in Lille?
Opinion
Why the French should be very worried about new spying powers
National
Spain's newest export to France: Vultures
Did a row over stolen veg lead to the murder of a British expat in France?
VIDEO: French rail chiefs SNCF furious after the Paris-Roubaix race
Sport
What the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would look like
Culture
IN PICS: Take a look inside France's new 36,000 year-old tourist site
International
Did the Pope reject France's envoy to the Vatican because he was gay?
Cyberjihad: Hacking of French TV channel was 'a step up'
Politics
PROFILE: Jean-Marie Le Pen - France's far-right master provocateur
National
France's fatigued 'anti-terror' police resort to calling sick
National
Dipping baguette in a bowl of coffee! - French habits foreigners don't get
Strike latest: Scores of flights cancelled in France
Features
New Calais migrant camp 'the worst in Europe'
Society
ASK THE EXPERTS: So why are the French always on strike?
National
French air traffic control strike: Tourists face travel chaos
Culture
Which stars will land an invite to the Cannes Film Festival?
Technology
Paris holds film festival for blind cinema goers
National
Paris wants to triple its number of cyclists by 2020
National
Readers tell us of the joys of living in France's 'expat no-go zones'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se