Vatican police arrest tourist who smashed Roman busts in museum

Vatican police arrest tourist who smashed Roman busts in museum
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ROME (AP) — Police detained an American tourist at a Vatican museum after he defaced two ancient Roman sculptures by throwing them to the ground, authorities said Thursday.

The man crowned the artwork on Wednesday at the Chiaramonti Museum, which is part of the Vatican Museums and houses one of the most important collections of Roman portrait busts.

Italian The newspapers reported That man he got angry because he was not allowed to “see the Pope”. A representative of the Vatican Museums told The Washington Post that his motive was unclear.

Photos shared on social media, and confirmed by the museum’s representative to The Post, showed the damaged busts strewn across the marble floor. One had lost part of its nose and an ear, the museum said.

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Vatican police handed the man over to Italian authorities on Wednesday, Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, told The Post.

A police spokesman said the 65-year-old had been in Rome for around three days and appeared to be “psychologically distressed”. He was charged with aggravated property damage and was released, the spokesman said.

The man had a paid ticket and appeared to be there alone, one of 20,000 visitors that day, Vatican Museums spokesman Matteo Alessandrini said.

“He smashed the two busts to the ground, one after the other,” Alessandrini said. Both felled heads were from the ancient city of Rome, one representing an old man and the other a young man.

When the first hit the ground, “the loud bang rang through the long gallery,” he said. Two Vatican police stationed inside the museum arrived within minutes and detained the man.

Technicians are now working to reassemble the damaged sculptures, which was done quickly. taken to the museum’s restoration lab after the incident.

The pieces were repairable but would require 300 hours of restoration work, according to Alessandrini. “The shock was greater than the actual damage,” he said.

Rick Steves, who runs a European tour company, said that while all of the museum’s artifacts could be considered precious, the damaged pieces were relatively insignificant.

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For Steves, the downside of such incidents may also be “the loss of access to fine art in general.”

To prevent further incidents, the museum might choose to increase security, as happened after a notorious assault on a work of art in 1972. That year, a Hungarian geologist attacked Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica with a hammer, damaging the Carrara marble sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. The statue was later repaired and placed behind bulletproof glass.

“The reality is that you can’t even see the Pietà from the angle that Michelangelo wanted you to see it,” Steves said. He wanted you to be close.

The Vatican museums, where millions of people flocked a year before the pandemic, reopened last year after coronavirus restrictions closed them or reduced opening hours.

Francis reported from London. Compton reported from DC

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