Angry American Tourist Smashes Two Ancient Vatican Sculptures Into Pieces After Being Denied Audience With Pope

The statutes were 2,000 years old.

An angry tourist smashed two ancient sculptures at the Vatican after being denied a chance to meet with the pope. It's just the latest in a series of instances of visitors behaving badly in Rome. Read on to find out what happened, what authorities said about the man, and how long it will take for the ancient works to be repaired.

1
Request For Papal Visit Rebuffed

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The incident happened around lunchtime in the Museo Chiaramonti, which is part of the Vatican Museums. It holds about 1,000 works of ancient statuary and Roman portraits. The man demanded to see the pope, the newspaper Il Messaggero reported. When he was told he couldn't, he allegedly hurled one Roman bust to the floor, then ran off, knocking another statue to the ground on his way.

2
Two Statues Damaged

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Matteo Alessandrini, director of the press office for Vatican Museums, told CNN the man was in the Galleria Chiaramonte corridor, which houses about 100 busts and statues. "The busts were affixed to shelves with a nail, but if you pull them down with force, they will come off," he said. "He pulled down one and then the other, and the guards came immediately and stopped him and consigned him to the Vatican police who brought him in for questioning." Alessandrini said the two busts were damaged but not severely. "One lost part of a nose and an ear, the head of the other came off the pedestal," he said.

3
Man Charged, Released

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​​A police spokesman told the Washington Post the 65-year-old man had been in Rome for about three days and appeared to be "psychologically distressed." He was given an aggravated property damage charge and released.

4
300 Hours of Repair Work Ahead

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The two works of art have been taken to the in-house workshop to be repaired. They're around 2,000 years old and are believed to be secondary works of art, Il Messaggero reported. The pieces would require 300 hours of restoration work costing about $15,000, Alessandrini said. "The scare was bigger than the actual damage," he said.

5
Tourists Behaving Badly

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Local tour guide Mountain Butorac told CNN he worried the incident would cause museums to create barriers to the art for security reasons. "One of the beautiful things is that it allows the visitors to get literally face to face with these ancient sculptures," he said. "My fear is that with behavior like this, barriers could be put in place." This isn't the first time tourists have vandalized monuments in Rome over the last few months. In July, a Canadian tourist carved her name into the Colosseum, while American tourists were caught throwing scooters down the Spanish Steps, breaking off pieces of the landmark.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more
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