American tourist denied visit with pope, smashed Roman busts in Vatican museums: report

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An American tourist on Wednesday threw a tantrum and cracked two Roman busts in the Vatican Museums after officials denied him an audience with Pope Francis.

The unidentified tourist, said to be in his fifties, was in the Chiaramonti Gallery when he requested to visit the pope. When told he could not visit the pope, the tourist grabbed an antique marble bust and threw it on the ground, damaging it. 

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He then damaged another bust as he ran from museum workers, who tried to apprehend him. The Gendarmerie, who serve as police and security in Vatican City, took the man into custody, Italian outlet Il Messaggero reported. 

A man visits the Vatican Museums on the day of their reopening after weeks of closure, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease, at the Vatican, May 3, 2021. 

A man visits the Vatican Museums on the day of their reopening after weeks of closure, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease, at the Vatican, May 3, 2021. 
(Reuters/Remo Casilli)

“The person who pulled down the statues has been arrested by the gendarmes and handed over to Italian authorities,” Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said following the incident. 

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He also said that the busts were “minor works” and that the damage was “not significant” but that the incident was the act of a “deranged person.”  

FILE -- In this Sept. 20, 2020 file photo, Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The pontiff on Saturday, Oct. 10, recorded a video message to a TED conference on climate change, which will be released later Saturday night.

FILE — In this Sept. 20, 2020 file photo, Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The pontiff on Saturday, Oct. 10, recorded a video message to a TED conference on climate change, which will be released later Saturday night.
(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

“The faces have not suffered great damage, perhaps one of the two specimens have detached a piece of the nose,” the spokesman noted, adding that experts will now examine for total damage and immediately work to restore the pieces. 

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The incident “shocked” the Vatican, which had installed a “complex and sophisticated” video surveillance system to protect the artworks on display. 

The Chiaramonti Museum, created under Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti includes more than 1,000 busts, statues and sarcophagi, according to the National Catholic Register. 

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Pope Francis greets and blesses the children assisted by the Vatican's Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary at the Paul VI Hall. Photo by Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Pope Francis greets and blesses the children assisted by the Vatican’s Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary at the Paul VI Hall. Photo by Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
(Photo by Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.)

Rome has suffered a number of acts of vandalism in recent months, including an American couple who threw their scooters at the Spanish Steps, causing an estimated 25,000 euros in damage, according to La Repubblica. 

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