Arson investigations under way after blaze in France’s historic Nantes Cathedral

21 July 2020

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A blaze that caused major damage to Nantes Cathedral in the early hours of 18 July is being treated as a “criminal act”, according to French investigators.

Prosecutor Pierre Sennes said fires started at three different sites inside the landmark fifteenth century Gothic structure, including one behind the famed seventeenth century grand organ, which was destroyed.

The main stained glass window on the facade of historic Nantes Cathedral in France was blown out in a fierce blaze suspected to be caused by arson

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in the centre of the city of Nantes, in western France. The fire also blew out the stained glass window on the main façade, but most of the cathedral’s structure, including the roof, was spared.

“We are not in a Notre Dame de Paris scenario,” said local fire chief Laurent Ferlay, referring to the blaze that engulfed the medieval cathedral at the heart of Paris in April 2019, destroying its thirteenth century vaulted oak roof and iconic spire. Investigations into the cause of the Notre Dame fire remain inconclusive although authorities said they had no reason to believe that is was a result of criminal action.

In March 2019, a church in Angoulême, France, was severely damaged by vandals who sabotaged its sound system and threw paint on walls, chairs and Bibles. The National Council of Evangelicals in France reported at the time that there had been a 25% increase of vandalism against churches in 2019, compared with the same period in 2018.

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