French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has paid tribute to a 78-year-old man who took his own life at the altar of the Notre Dame cathedral.

Ms Le Pen said Dominique Venner's death, three days after a law legalising same-sex marriage came into effect, was a political gesture aimed at "waking up the French people".

The historian, who was known for his hard-right political essays and was a fierce opponent of gay marriage, killed himself in front of hundreds of tourists.

Mr Venner was carrying a letter at the time, but its contents have not been released.

A recent entry on his blog page appealed to readers to join a march planned for Sunday against the Socialist government's same-sex marriage law, which came into force at the weekend.

President Francois Hollande honoured a campaign pledge by making France the 14th country to allow same-sex weddings.

The country's biggest social reform in three decades is backed by a small majority of French people, surveys show.

Yet the move stirred up a storm of opposition among social conservatives and Catholics who have organised a series of angry and often violent protests.

Mr Venner fought for France in Algeria in the 50s and 60s and later became a hard-right activist and author specialising in military and political history.