Photos shared on social media and confirmed to The Post by a museum representative show damaged busts scattered across the marble floor. The museum said that one of them lost part of his nose and ear.
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See’s Press Office, told The Post that Vatican police handed the man over to Italian authorities on Wednesday.
A police spokesman said the 65-year-old woman had been in Rome for about three days and appeared to be “psychologically distressed”. He was charged with aggravated damage to property and released, the spokesman said.
Matteo Alessandrini, a spokesman for the Vatican Museums, said the man had a paid ticket and was one of 20,000 visitors there alone that day.
“He knocked down two busts one after the other,” Alessandrini said. Both of the fallen heads were from the ancient city of Rome, one depicting an old man and the other a young boy.
When it hit the first floor, “a loud explosion reverberated through the long gallery,” he said. Two Vatican policemen stationed at the museum arrived within minutes and took the man into custody.
Technicians are now quickly trying to restore the damaged statues. was taken the museum’s recovery lab after the incident.
The pieces could be repaired, but Alessandrini said it would require 300 hours of restoration work. “The fear was greater than the current damage,” he said.
According to Rick Steves, who runs a travel business in Europe, while all the exhibits in the museum can be considered valuable, the damaged pieces are relatively insignificant.
For Steves, the downside of such events can be “the loss of access to fine art in general.”
To prevent other incidents, the museum could have opted for more security measures, as it did after the infamous 1972 attack on the artwork. That same year, a Hungarian geologist attacked Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Petersburg. Peter’s Basilica with a hammer damages the Carrara marble statue of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. Later, the statue was repaired and placed behind bulletproof glass.
“The reality is, you can’t even see the Pieta from the angle you want to see Michelangelo,” Steve said. “He wanted you close.”
Vatican museums, which drew millions of people a year before the pandemic, have reopened after coronavirus restrictions closed them or limited opening hours last year.
Francis reported from London. Compton reported from DC