Church volunteer admits to setting fire that gutted French cathedral

Church volunteer admits to setting fire that gutted French cathedral”

"Obviously it was a relief for him to show, as he would say, his repentance".

Sennes said so far the suspect "has not elaborated in detail on his motivations".

Jean-Charles Nowak, the clerk of the cathedral, said: "I'm a bit devastated".

"When someone cracks up, it is to everyone's astonishment".

An arson investigation was launched nearly immediately after the two-hour battle by firefighters to save the building, and shortly afterwards a Rwandan immigrant - who was a volunteer at the cathedral and had been responsible for locking up the building the night before - was held and questioned by police.

The suspect told the examining magistrate he lit three fires in the cathedral, which resulted in the severe damage of a 17th-century organ and stained glass windows.

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But Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes said in a statement Saturday that he had been arrested and charged with "destruction and damage by fire", and faces up to 10 years in prison and 150,000 euros ($175,000) in fines.

That Nantes burned so soon after the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral Paris did not fail to elicit attention and comment in France, although the Notre-Dame fire is said to have been an accident, rather than arson.

But now the same - named only as "Emmanuel" in French newspapers - 39-year-old man has been rearrested and has confessed, Le Figaro reports, to arson.

While the early morning fire was contained by 104 firefighters who managed to save its main structure, the church's priceless organ dating from the 17th century was completely destroyed. It had been badly damaged by a more serious fire in 1972 and concrete reinforcements were added to the roof, which took 13 years to rebuild.

The French government said it will ensure the cathedral's restoration, though few elements of the main organ are likely to be saved, said Philippe Charron, head of the regional DRAC state heritage agency.

The cathedral itself was built over five centuries and completed in 1891. It will take at least three years for the cathedral in Nantes to be fully restored, chief architect for France's historical monuments, Pascal Prunet, told Reuters.

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