Arson suspected after French Catholic cathedral catches fire

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Arson is suspected by investigators after a fire broke out at Saint-Pol-de-Léon cathedral on Thursday evening in what could be the latest arson attack on a Roman Catholic church in France.

The fire is believed to have broken out around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday evening in the commune of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, located on France’s northwestern coast in the Brittany region.

A total of 13 firefighters arrived on the scene at Saint-Paul-Aurélien Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century, along with local members of the gendarmes, reports Ouest France.

According to the broadcaster, at least a dozen chairs appeared to have been set on fire in the historic cathedral, lit by candles and causing significant amounts of smoke in the building.

The mayor of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, Stéphane Cloarec, said their fires appeared to have been set intentionally.

No one was injured as a result of the fire and damage to the structure is said to have been minimal, and the cathedral was able to reopen the next day.

Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the cathedral has been classified as a historic monument in France since 1840. It was built on the site of an old wooden church believed to have been built sometime in the 4th century.

The alleged arson attack is only the latest against a Catholic church in France and comes just a year after a 36-year-old man was suspected of setting fires to four different churches in October and November last year in Boulogne and Portel.

Several other cathedrals in France have also been targeted by arsonists, including Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Rennes in 2020, where arsonists placed a large rubbish bin near a side door of the cathedral and set it on fire in an attempt to set the cathedral on fire . .

That same year in Nantes, a Rwandan migrant was arrested for setting fire to the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, causing severe damage and destroying the great organ and stained glass windows.

The same Rwandan, identified as Emmanuel Abayisenga, was arrested again the following year and charged with the murder of Catholic priest Father Olivier Maire, who allegedly beat the pastor to death.

Last month, Abayisenga was finally charged with the murder after spending more than a year in a mental institution.

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