American Tourist Demands to See Pope, Destroys Two Ancient Vatican Busts

An American tourist has been arrested after he broke two ancient Roman sculptures at the Vatican when he was told he couldn’t see Pope Francis.

Vatican with the Tiber River and St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy
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Image via Getty/Laurie Chamberlain

Vatican with the Tiber River and St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy

An American tourist has been arrested after he broke two ancient sculptures at the Vatican when he was told he couldn’t see Pope Francis.

Per CNN via Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, the unnamed 50-something demanded to see Pope Francis when he visited the Museo Chiaramonti Vatican museum on Wednesday. When he was informed he couldn’t see the Pope, he flew into a fight of rage and broke one of the ancient Roman busts on display. During his attempt to escape the scene and the museum’s security, he knocked over a second sculpture. The two artworks, which are approximately 2,000 years old, have since been taken to an in-house workshop at the museum to assess the damage.

"The busts were affixed to shelves with a nail but if you pull them down with force they will come off," said the director of the press office for Vatican Museums. "He pulled down one and then the other and the guards came immediately and stopped him and consigned him to the Vatican police who brought him in for questioning. Around 5:30 p.m. he was handed over to the Italian authorities.”

While the two busts have been damaged, the director added that they didn’t suffer too much damage. “One lost part of a nose and an ear, the head of the other came off the pedestal,” he said, noting that restoration work has begun and “they will soon be restored and back at the museum.”

Man topples two ancient Roman busts in the Vatican Museums 🤬https://t.co/4DJfjhA0dU pic.twitter.com/Ge0roZQWkp

— Gareth Harney (@OptimoPrincipi) October 5, 2022

Rome and the Vatican have long had to deal with disruptive tourists, and almost every year a story comes out about ancient artworks or structures suffering damage at the heads of travelers. Earlier this year, per The New York Post, a pair of American tourists were fined after they threw an electric scooter down Rome’s Spanish steps, causing over $26,000 in damages. Back in 2020, an Austrian tourist issued an apology after they broke off a few toes from an early 19th century statue he posed with in a photo.

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