Arson suspected after the French Catholic Cathedral fire

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

The fire is believed to have broken out at around 5.30pm on Thursday in the commune of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, located on the north-west coast of France in the Brittany region.

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

According to the television station, at least a dozen chairs appeared to have been set on fire inside the historic cathedral, lit by candles and sending significant amounts of smoke into the building.

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

No one was injured as a result of the fire and damage to the structure was said to be minimal, with the cathedral able to reopen the following day.

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

The alleged arson attack is just the latest against a Catholic church in France and comes just a year after a 36-year-old man is suspected of setting fire 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 dustbin on a side door of the cathedral and set it on fire in an attempt to burn down the cathedral temple. .

That same year in Nantes, a Rwandan immigrant was arrested for setting fire to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, causing severe damage and destroying its grand 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, allegedly beating the cleric 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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