An American man visiting the Vatican threw two Ancient Roman busts to the ground in a fit of rage after being informed that he could not see the Pope, Italian newspapers report.
On Wednesday, October 5, broken fragments of the sculptures were littered on the ground of a Chiaramonti Museum hallway whose walls are lined with Classical busts and sculptures. The Chiaramonti is one of several Vatican sculpture museums and mainly consists of the long loggia in which the destruction took place. Photos of the scene were shared on social media on Wednesday, and a museum representative confirmed that the photos represented the aftermath and added that one of the busts was now missing its nose and an ear.
The man reportedly threw one bust directly at the ground, while the other was disfigured while he attempted to flee the scene. The works were immediately seized and brought to the museum’s restoration lab — where, according to a Vatican Museums spokesperson, they will undergo approximately 300 hours of repair work. The Italian publication Adnkronos reported that repairs will cost around €15,000 (~$14,700). The Vatican Museums also indicated that they were relatively “minor works.”
The man who vandalized the sculptures, aged 65 and apparently “psychologically distressed,” seemed to have been visiting the Vatican alone and was turned over to Italian authorities the same day. He received an aggravated property damage charge and was subsequently released.
Traffic at the Vatican Museums is projected to rise with the Catholic Church’s upcoming 2025 Jubilee Year celebrations, and according to La Repubblica, they were recently equipped with surveillance cameras to ensure the security of their artworks. Experts warn that incidents such as this week’s may result in increased security measures that will further limit viewers’ ability to see artworks up close.