An American tourist smashed an ancient Vatican City statue after he was refused a meeting with the Pope.
The incident occurred in the Vatican’s Chiaramonti Museum on October 5 at around midday.
The man, who was in his 50s, asked to meet Pope Francis – but directed his anger at an ancient statue after being told no.
It smashed on the floor and, as he tried to flee the area, another sculpture was smashed.
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The two damaged pieces of artwork are now at a conservation laboratory with the man's motives for wanting to meet the Pope unknown.
An official statement from the Vatican read: “The person who knocked down the statues was stopped by the Vatican police and has been handed over to the Italian authorities."
A representative for the Chiaramonti museum told Il Messaggero that the two damaged relics in question, which are around 2,000 years old, are “minor works” within the museum’s collection.
However, according to Italian news agency Adnkronos, the pieces of art will require roughly €15,000 (£13,185) spent on them and between 300 and 350 hours of restoration work.
Although such work is under way, experts believe they will never be the same again.
The Chiaramonti has around 1,000 historic sculptures, the majority of which are busts, including a famed portrait of Roman Emperor Augustus found in the city’s Prima Porta neighbourhood.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that one bust lost its nose.
The representative added: “Now the experts are weighing the damage and proceeding to recover the fragments for immediate restoration."
They also claimed that “the shock in the Vatican for what happened was enormous.”
A sophisticated video surveillance system keeps tabs on the Vatican. Both sculptures that were damaged were anchored to their displays.
Museum staff also receive regular training on how to handle tourist altercations. The Vatican is preparing for a huge rise in visitors who will be looking to honour the Catholic Church’s Jubilee celebrations in 2025.
There has been a rise in reports of vandalism and damage to cultural heritage sites and pieces of art since the Covid-19 pandemic. The Spanish Steps, located near the site of the Chiaramonti Museum, having also been damaged in recent months.
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