An American tourist smashed two 2,000-year-old statues after his request to speak with Pope Francis while visiting the Vatican’s Chiaramonti Museum was denied.
The disgruntled man directed his anger toward an ancient bust, which toppled to the floor. While fleeing the scene, he also damaged another sculpture. The incident occurred earlier around 12 p.m. noon on Thursday in Rome.
“The person who knocked down the statues was stopped by the Vatican police and has been handed over to the Italian authorities,” reads a statement from the Vatican.
The statement continued, “Now the experts are weighing the damage and proceeding to recover the fragments for immediate restoration.” According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, one bust lost its nose.
While it is unclear what the tourist wanted to discuss with the Pope, both artworks are currently undergoing conservation. A museum representative, however, told the Italian publication Il Messaggero that the two damaged pieces are “minor works” within the collection.
Chiaramonti holds approximately 1,000 sculptures, many of which are busts. The most notable of them is Augustus of Prima Porta (20 B.C.E.), a full-length marble statue of the first Roman Emperor.
The Vatican’s video surveillance system captured the damage. Museum staff will also receive ongoing training on how to handle these kinds of altercations. Next week, there will also be a meeting dedicated to discussing security measures as the Catholic Church prepares for its upcoming Jubilee celebrations in 2025.