Dominique Venner, a French award-winning historian whose social views were strongly traditional, killed himself inside the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris beside the main altar, using a shotgun to shoot himself through his mouth. 1,500 people were inside the cathedral at the time.
Venner was an ardent opponent of gay marriage, and his act may have been a result of his desire to protest the government’s decision to legalize gay marriage, which was just signed into law on Saturday by President Francois Hollande. Venner’s last blog entry condemned the new law on Tuesday, and quoted an Algerian blogger who predicted Islamists would rule France within 15 years. Venner was as unhappy about Islamist rule as he was over same-sex marriage. He wrote: “It is here and now that our destiny is played out to the very last second. And this final second has as much importance as the rest of a life.”
Earlier in the day he lamented the failure of peaceful mass protests against same-sex marriage, writing, “New spectacular and symbolic actions are needed to wake up the sleepwalkers and shake the anaesthetized consciousness. We are entering a time when acts must follow words.”
Venner was a long-time hard-right figure, a former member of the Secret Army Organization (OAS), which fought against Algerian independence fifty years ago and had plans to assassinate Charles De Gaulle. Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader, called Venner’s suicide an act that was for “waking up the people of France.”