Arson attack damages Solothurn cathedral

A 61-year-old man has been arrested after setting fire to St Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn, causing several hundred thousand francs damage, police have said.

This content was published on January 4, 2011 minutes and agencies

The motive for the attack, which comes two weeks ahead of a ceremony for the new bishop of Basel in the cathedral, remains unclear.

The man, who has been described as suffering from psychiatric problems, started the fire after pouring around ten litres of petrol near the main altar on Tuesday morning. The sacristan raised the alarm and the fire was put out by a fire officer who happened to be nearby.

At a media conference, police said the man had admitted to the attack which has caused fire, smoke and soot damage to the altar area and the organ. Cantonal police have estimated the damage to be in the order of several hundred thousand francs.

The cathedral is described by Solothurn Tourism as “the most important Swiss building of the early classicism built of light marble”.  Solothurn is the seat of the Basel bishopric and the cathedral was due to host the installation of the new bishop of Basel Felix Gmür on January 16.

Karl Heeb, president of the Roman Catholic Church Parish of Solothurn, said it was still “very unclear” whether the ceremony would take place. A decision would come once it was known how long it would take to clean-up the cathedral, he added.

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