Suspected arson at Fontainebleau church

Historic furnishings damaged and around a dozen objects missing or destroyed


A fire at the Church of Saint-Louis in Fontainebleau, France on Sunday 10 January was probably arson, authorities in the Seine-et-Marne region say. Fleur Pellerin, the minister of culture, issued a statement condemning “the destruction and disappearance of several religious objects and artistic furnishings, many of which were listed or inscribed as Historic Monuments”, our sister paper the Journal des Arts reports. No people were hurt in the fire.

Among the 12 objects missing after the fire is a virgin with child in polychrome wood from the 14th century, originally from the Franchard hermitage in the Fontainebleau forest. “Analyses of the collected debris in the chapel will allow us to know whether this virgin was destroyed or stolen,” says Jean-Pascal Lanuit, the regional deputy director of the DRAC Ile-de-France.

Another loss was the 17th-century main altar, decorated with bas-reliefs depicting the descent from the cross and saints that came from the Trinité-du-Palais chapel in Fontainebleau. According to the curate, other altarpieces were also destroyed. Items damaged by the heat include stained glass windows that suffered from cracks.

“The fire was lit at the foot of the most valuable and symbolic goods. So these are people who knew their heritage and religious value,” Frédéric Valletoux, the mayor of Fontainebleau, told Le Figaro. Lanuit said a team from the ministry of culture would to conduct a full inventory of the church objects this week.