PARIS -- An essayist popular among French nationalists and on the political far right killed himself near the altar of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame here on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
The man, identified as Dominique Venner, 78, left a letter "addressed to investigators" in the cathedral before shooting himself in the head, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, the rector, told France Info radio.
Officials offered no details about the letter's contents, but Mr. Venner published a blog post on Tuesday in which he denounced the passage of a "vile" new law opening marriage rights to same-sex couples and warned of an imminent takeover of France by "Islamists."
"New, spectacular and symbolic gestures will surely be needed to rattle the somnolent, shake anesthetized consciences and reawaken the memory of our origins," Mr. Venner wrote.
He added, "It is in deciding by oneself, in truly desiring one's fate that one is triumphant over the void."
In a Twitter message, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, hailed Mr. Venner's suicide as an "eminently political" gesture meant to "wake up the people of France."
The 850-year-old cathedral, a popular tourist attraction, was evacuated.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.