Man knocks down ancient Roman busts in Vatican Museums

By Philippe Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A man knocked over two ancient Roman busts in the Vatican museums on Wednesday, causing moderate damage before being stopped by staff and arrested, a museum source said.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the man was in his 50s and had been “behaving strangely”.

He knocked two busts off their pedestals in the museum’s Chiaramonti room, which houses more than 1,000 pieces and is one of the most important collections of Roman busts.

Museum staff restrained the man and Vatican police arrived minutes later to arrest him.

Both busts were damaged but not badly, the source said, adding that they had already been taken to the museums restoration lab for repair.

Photos taken by visitors and posted on social media showed the two broken busts lying on the marble floor.

After having to close or reduce opening hours during years of COVID restrictions, museums are now welcoming tourists in droves. Museums received some six million visitors a year before the pandemic.

The most notorious assault on artwork in the Vatican took place in 1972 when a Hungarian jumped over a side altar in St. Peter’s Basilica and attacked Michelangelo’s Pietà with a hammer. He knocked off the Madonna’s left arm and chipped her nose and veil.

This Renaissance masterpiece is now behind bulletproof glass.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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