Death at Notre Dame

Created: 2013-05-22 09:19 EST

Category: World > Europe

French police sealed off Notre Dame cathedral after a former far-right activist shot himself inside the tourist landmark.

Dominique Venner killed himself in front of the main altar.

Shortly before doing so the 78-year-old had urged readers of his blog to protest against gay marriage.

Visitors waiting outside the cathedral spoke of their shock.

[Prince Salabanzi, Chathedral Visitor]:
"Well it was a bit of a panic. A person arrives in front of the altar - Notre Dame is one of the most visited monuments in France with many people entering at all times - the man, without any notice, arrives and shoots himself in the head. For sure that's shocking so it's a trauma which will stay for everyone, so they emptied the cathedral of its visitors."

Venner was a historian known for his far-right political essays.

He'd been a fierce opponent of gay marriage which became legal in France on Saturday.