A Rwandan refugee detained following a fire at St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Nantes during the morning hours of 18 July 2020 has been released by police. Police arrested the 39 year old volunteer, known as Emmanuel, following the fire which destroyed the cathedral’s 17th century organ, a painting and stained glass windows above the organ.
Emmanuel had worked for several years as a volunteer at the church and altar server, and had been responsible for locking the building on Friday evening. He was questioned by police after investigators found no signs of forced entry.
Three fires were deliberately set around the organ area, investigators have found, and an arson investigation is underway to determine who was responsible
France’s 87 Catholic cathedrals are owned by the state. Following last year’s devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris the government established a “cathedral security” program to inspect the buildings for fire hazards. French media reports state 81 cathedrals, including Nantes, have been inspected for wiring and other fire hazards since the Notre-Dame fire and all have passed muster. However, French cathedrals are not guarded at night or given additional protection by the state against attack.
After local residents noticed the fire, the fire brigade was called out and the blaze contained within two hours. While causing considerable damage, no one was injured in the blaze. Police are continuing their inquiries.