VATICAN CITY (RNS) — An American tourist hurled two ancient Roman busts to the floor in the Vatican Museums on Wednesday (Oct. 5) after being refused an audience with Pope Francis.
“The person who pulled down the statues has been arrested by the gendarmes and handed over to Italian authorities,” Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni told reporters afterward.
According to local reports, the unidentified tourist was visiting the Chiaramonti Gallery at the Vatican Museums, which holds one of the largest collections of Roman marble portraits in the world, when he asked to meet the pope.
After being denied, the visitor threw two marble busts to the ground before being stopped by a tour guide and then by the security personnel. A tour guide posted a picture of the event on Facebook.
The Vatican Museums described it as “the act of a deranged person.” The statues were not severely damaged, according to the museum, though one of the busts may have lost a nose. The artwork has been sent to the museum’s restoration department.
Rome has been subjected to a number of acts of vandalism in recent months. In June, an American couple threw their electric scooters down the famed 18th century Spanish Steps, causing damage estimated at about 25,000 euros, according to the Italian daily La Repubblica. That same month, a tourist from Saudi Arabia wrecked the famous site by accidentally driving his Maserati down the Spanish Steps.