The Cathedral of Notre Dame was evacuated Tuesday after far-right historian and activist Dominique Veenner committed suicide inside the Paris landmark.
French media reported that the man shot himself, but authorities would not corroborate those reports, according to the Associated Press. French daily Le Parisien identified the man as a 78-year-old writer and essayist, although this also could not be confirmed. Swiss daily Le Matin identified the man as Venner, as did Le Monde.
Le Monde pointed out that Venner held extreme right-wing views and wrote a blog with posts denouncing gay marriage and expressing fears of an Islamic takeover of France. In his latest blog post, Venner referred to the anti-gay marriage protests planned for May 26 in France. President Francois Hollande singed a law approving gay marriage on Saturday.
In a post dated Tuesday, Venner wrote, "The demonstrators of May 26 [against the law allowing gay marriage in France] will be right to shout their impatience and rage. A law steeped in infamy, once voted, can always be voided."
Agence France Presse had other excerpts of Venner's post dated May 21, which reportedly was near Venner's body when police discovered the suicide. "It is here and now that our fate is played, until the last second. And this last second has as much importance as the rest of a life. That is why one has to be oneself until the last moment," Venner wrote.
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The BBC reported that Venner killed himself in front of the cathedral’s main altar around 4 p.m. local time, in view of many visitors to the landmark church.
According to the biography on his website, Venner published more than 50 books and served in the French military.
The apparent suicide caused police to close the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which receives 14 million tourists each year and is among the most visited sites in Paris. The church has a rich 850-year history.