Rwanda Man sentenced for Gothic cathedral blaze in Nantes

Nantes Cathedral is an emblematic building which has survived the French Revolution, wars and an arson attempt in 2020. Photo credit: Eusebius (Guillaume Piolle) / Wikimedia Commons

A FRENCH court sentenced a Rwandan man to four years in prison for starting the 2020 fire in Nantes Cathedral. Emmanuel Abayisenga was judged to be guilty on Thursday, March 30 for starting the blaze which severely damaged the Gothic cathedral.

Despite finding that Abayisenga was not mentally sound at the time of the fire, a judge ruled that he will face prison time for his actions, and will also be banned from the region for five years.

The man was a volunteer at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the city, and prosecutors alleged that he set fire to the building knowingly due to “huge anger and a feeling of revenge linked to his own administrative situation”.

The fire was contained, but unfortunately, the church’s famous 17th century organ was destroyed, despite surviving both the French Revolution and World War II. Additionally, priceless artifacts and paintings were lost in the flames.

Abayisenga is also facing legal action for allegedly killing a priest in western France in 2021. Reports allege that he had unsuccessfully sought asylum in France multiple times and received a deportation order in 2019.