The suicide of far-right French historian Dominique Venner has brought the spotlight back onto the divisive issue of same-sex marriage, recently legalised in France.
Venner, 78, took his life inside Notre-Dame cathedral on May 21, reportedly by shooting himself in front of the altar.
Earlier the same day, the award-winning essayist published a blog post savaging the legalisation of homosexual marriage.
Venner wrote: “I think I need to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that overwhelms us” adding “spectacular and symbolic actions” were needed to wake up the French people.
Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party hailed the suicide as a “political act”.
The French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: “Notre Dame is the cathedral of Paris, one of the capital’s and the country’s most beautiful monuments, so we realise how symbolic this event truly is.”
Valls said there were 1,500 people inside the cathedral, adding: “I can only imagine how shocking it was for those faithful, those tourists.”
The cathedral is visited by some 13 million people from around the world every year.
On the evening of the suicide, gay-rights supporters had gathered in Paris’ Place de la Bastille for a live music event to celebrate the legalisation of same-sex marriages in France.
Tuesday’s death comes less than a week after another unusual suicide in central Paris, when a man shot himself in front of a dozen schoolchildren at a private Catholic school in the French capital.
The cathedral’s rector said a few people had committed suicide by jumping from Notre Dame’s twin towers, but he had no knowledge of anyone ever committing suicide on the altar.