• France edition
 
Far-right figure kills himself at Notre Dame
Paris Notre Dame cathedral where a man committed suicide on Tuesday. Photo: Paul Beattie

Far-right figure kills himself at Notre Dame

Published: 21 May 2013 16:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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 A deplorable law, once passed, can always be repealed," he wrote.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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Tour de France stage 19: Lithuanian makes history
A Lithuanian rider, for the first time ever, won a stage of the Tour de France. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Tour de France stage 19: Lithuanian makes history

Stage 19: For the first time in Tour de France history a Lithuanian rider on Friday won a stage of the legendary bike race. Numerous crashes and a disjointed peloton contributed to an unusual day on the course. READ  

'France has world's best healthcare for expats'
Photo: Couple.

'France has world's best healthcare for expats'

France's reputation for having an excellent healthcare system got a boost recently from a study that said it is the best one in the world for retired expats. However, another report noted there's a dark side to France's services. READ  

Violent storms to drench south-western France
Nasty storms are expected to hit south-western France on Friday. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Violent storms to drench south-western France

Nineteen departments in south-western France were under an orange alert on Friday--the second highest warning level--due to a set of nasty storms carrying heavy rain, hail and packing high winds. READ  

Flight AH5017 tragedy
No survivors in Mali crash, 54 French killed
There were no survivors of the Air Algérie flight that crashed in Africa. Photo: AFP/ECPAD

No survivors in Mali crash, 54 French killed

AS IT HAPPENED: France's president says there were no survivors of the Air Algerie crash in Africa, at the same time French authorities are ruling out the possibility the jet was shot down, saying bad weather is thus far the apparent cause. READ  

Paris police ban pro-Palestinian demo
Paris has banned a pro-Palestinian march set for Saturday. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Paris police ban pro-Palestinian demo

After a string of pro-Palestinian marches turned violent in the past week, Paris's police authority has banned a march set for Saturday that is in protest of Israel's air and ground incursion into Gaza. READ  

Anti-gay mayor performs gay son's wedding
An anti-gay French mayor said 'never say never' after performing the wedding of his gay son. Photo: Hands.

Anti-gay mayor performs gay son's wedding

A French mayor known for his hardcore opposition to the country’s highly controversial decision last year to allow gay marriage, has found a same-sex union he can allow. He recently performed the wedding of his own son, who is gay. READ  

Ten bizarre facts about French Parliament
Here's ten interesting and funny things you didn't now aboute France's National Assembly. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Ten bizarre facts about French Parliament

As Friday is the official start of summer holiday for members of French parliament, The Local has decided to have a little fun with them and has brought you 10 bizarre facts about its National Assembly. They're good for a laugh, but you also might learn something. READ  

Top Parisian tourist spots could open 7/7
Some of Paris's top tourist spots may stay open seven days a week. Photo: Ironypoisoning/Flickr

Top Parisian tourist spots could open 7/7

Three of Paris’s main tourist attractions, the Louvre museum, the Musée d’Orsay and the Palace of Versailles, may soon stay open seven days a week in a bid to accommodate more visitors amid dwindling subsidies. READ  

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'
The latest map released by officials in Burkina Faso, showing the presumed site where the plane is believed to have come down. Photo: Airport of Ougadougou

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'

An Air Algérie-operated flight carrying 116 people on board, including 51 French nationals, is believed to have crashed in Mali on Thursday. There have been unconfirmed reports that the wreckage of the plane has been found. READ  

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus
French border police find an arsenal of weapons on board a Eurolines bus. Photo: Sludge Gulper/FLickr

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus

French border police seized a small arsenal of firearms and ammunition they found stowed aboard a bus that was passing through France on its way to London, French media reported on Thursday. Officers are still looking for the owner of the weapons. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
International
'They think beer is a vegetable': What the French really think of Germans
National
Sarkozy's dream of a 2017 comeback is not dead yet
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is better than Germany (we're not talking football)
Gallery
Paris in Summer: Ten things to do on a shoestring
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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