(CNN) — Just when you thought the summer of misbehaving tourists was over, another vacationer arrives and destroys priceless works, now in the Vatican.
Now it was the turn of an American tourist who on Wednesday destroyed no less than two ancient Roman sculptures in the Vatican.
The episode occurred at the Chiaramonti Museum, part of the Vatican Museums, at lunchtime. The site houses around 1,000 works of ancient statuary and describes itself as “one of the best collections of Roman portraits” in the world.
But two of those portraits now have an uncertain future, after the tourist knocked one of them down in anger and then knocked down another one as he fled the site.
The man had demanded to see Pope Francis, according to Il Messaggero newspaper. When told that he couldn’t, he allegedly threw a Roman bust to the ground.
As he fled the museum, with staff in pursuit, he threw another work to the ground.
The two pieces of art were taken to the museum’s own workshop to assess their condition. Although they are around 2,000 years old, they are believed to be secondary works of art, rather than famous works, a source told Il Messaggero.
The director of the Vatican Museums Press Office, Matteo Alessandrini, told CNN that the American, in his 50s, was in the corridor of the “Galleria Chiaramonte”, which houses around 100 busts and statues.
“The busts were fixed on the shelves with a nail, but if you pull them hard they come off,” the official explained. The tourist “threw one to the ground and then the other, and the guards came immediately and arrested him. They handed him over to the Vatican police who took him away for questioning. Around 5:30 p.m. he was taken into custody by the Italian authorities. “, he added.
“The two busts were damaged, but not particularly serious. One lost part of its nose and ear, the head of the other fell off the pedestal,” he added.
Alessandrini said that restoration work has already begun, and that “they will soon be restored and will be back in the museum.”
Mountain Butorac, who leads pilgrimages to the Vatican and frequently visits the Chiaramonti Museum, said: “One of the beautiful things is that (the museum) allows visitors to literally come face to face with these ancient sculptures. My fear is that with a behavior like this could put up barriers.
Incidents of tourists damaging monuments have been recurrent this summer in Rome. In July, a Canadian tourist was caught carving her name into the Colosseum, while US visitors launched themselves on scooters down the steps of the Spanish Steps, smashing pieces of the place at the time. And a Saudi visitor drove his Maserati through the same architectural spot.
Delia Gallagher contributed to this report