(PARIS) — The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was evacuated and closed for four hours on Tuesday after a man shot himself dead near the altar.
Dominique Venner, a 78-year-old French historian, entered the cathedral Tuesday and placed a sealed letter on the altar before shooting himself in front of hundreds of tourists, according to the U.K.’s Independent. Venner apparently killed himself in protest against France’s recent decision to allow same-sex civil unions.
According to the newspaper, authorities immediately cleared the building, one of France’s most popular tourist locations now in its 850th anniversary year, and closed it to the public for about four hours.
Though efforts were made by cathedral security to revive Venner, a former member of the nationalist terrorist movement OAS, he later died of the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Independent reports Venner posted an essay online earlier Tuesday laying out his views on gay marriage. He called for “new, spectacular and symbolic actions to shake us out of our sleep, to jolt anesthetised minds and to reawaken memory of our origins.”
In addition to ranting against gay marriage, Venner wrote in the essay that the “population of France” and Europe was going to be “replaced” and brought under “Islamist control,” The Independent reports.
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Steve Almasy, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN