French Police Suspect Criminal Motive In Nantes Cathedral Fire

Police are investigating a fire at the 15th century Nantes Cathedral in France, suspecting that the incident was caused by criminal motive.

Roughly 100 firefighters combated the blaze at St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral in northwestern France Saturday morning. The fire was discovered to have three starting points, leading authorities to believe that it may be arson, the Washington Post reported.

“It’s not a coincidence. It’s even a signature,” Pierre Sennes, a Nantes public prosecutor, told France’s Ouest France newspaper, according to the Post.

There was no evidence of a break-in at any of the cathedral’s six doors. Most of the cathedral was saved, although an organ and a painting by 19th century painter Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, were destroyed, according to the Guardian.

A 39-year-old Rwandan refugee who was housed by the diocese and was responsible for locking up the building the day before the fire was detained but freed Sunday evening. Sennes said that he was brought in for questioning as part of “normal procedure.”

The fire comes a year after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was engulfed in flames.

“After Notre Dame, Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, in the heart of Nantes, is in flames,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Saturday. “Support for our firefighters taking all the risks to save this Gothic jewel of the city of the Dukes.”

In 2018, French police reported 129 thefts and 877 acts of vandalism in Catholic spaces, and some advocates have said the French government has downplayed the official figures related to anti-Catholic incidents. The French Ministry of the Interior said attacks on Christian sites quadrupled between 2008 and 2019, according to RealClear.

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