US tourist is arrested for smashing two ancient Roman sculptures after being denied visit with pope

An American tourist has been arrested for smashing up two ancient Roman sculptures after being told he couldn’t see Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The individual had “acted suspiciously,” according to a museum source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss a current inquiry.

According to local media, the man, a 65-year-old American who was born in Egypt, reportedly threw himself into a bust after being told he couldn’t see Pope Francis and then raced into another bust while attempting to escape from museum security.


He threw the two figures from their pedestals in the Chiaramonti hall of the museum, one of the most significant collections of Roman portrait busts with more than 1,000 pieces.

‘The busts were affixed to shelves with a nail but if you pull them down with force, they will come off,’ Matteo Alessandrini, a spokesman for the Vatican Museums, told CNN

.The 2 busts have been damaged but not particularly badly. One lost part of a nose and an ear, the head of the other came off the pedestal,’ said Alessandrini.

After being detained by museum employees, the individual was later taken into custody by Vatican police.

According to Alessandrini, the two busts had minor damage but could still be repaired with 300 hours of labor.

The panic, he continued, was worse than the real damage.


The two busts that were smashed were visible in photos that tourists took and shared on social media. The two pieces, according to a source, are about 2,000 years old but are not very significant works of art.

The museums are now awash in visitors after having to close their doors or cut back on their hours due to COVID limitations for years. Before the pandemic, the museums averaged about six million visits annually.

The most infamous art theft in Vatican history occurred in 1972 when a Hungarian man leapt over a side altar in St. Peter’s Basilica and sledgehammered Michelangelo’s Pieta. He broke off the left arm of the Madonna and damaged her nose and veil.