An American Tourist Just Smashed Two Ancient Roman Statues In The Vatican After Being Denied Permission To See The Pope

Published October 6, 2022

The busted-up busts were of "minor figures" but were nailed to their displays inside the Galleria Chiaramonte of the Museo Chariamonti, part of the Vatican Museums.

Chiaramonti Museum

Lothar M. Peter/ullstein bild via Getty ImagesThe Chiaramonti Museum at the Vatican in Rome.

On Oct. 5, 2022, an American tourist visiting the Vatican was apparently so enraged that he wasn’t allowed to see the Pope, he threw a tantrum and destroyed two 2,000-year-old Roman sculptures on his way out.

As CNN reported, the incident took place in the Museo Chiaramonti, part of the Vatican Museums that holds nearly 1,000 Roman statues and describes itself as “one of the finest collections of Roman portraits” worldwide.

The tourist was reportedly around 65 years old, walking through a corridor that houses around 100 precious busts and statues.

At some point, he demanded to see the Pope — a request that was obviously denied.

Director of the Press Office for Vatican Museums Matteo Alessandrini told CNN that “The busts were affixed to shelves with a nail, but if you pull them down with force they will come off. He pulled one down and then the other and guards came immediately and stopped him.”

Thankfully, the Catholic News Agency reported, the Vatican said damage to the busts was “not significant,” but one of them may have suffered the loss of a piece of its nose.

Broken Statues At The Vatican

RedditAn image of the busts laying on the floor of the corridor.

After the incident, the tourist was handed over to Italian authorities — and it wasn’t the first time he has caused trouble. In the past, he was cited for public indecency in the United States.

Per Artnet, a Vatican representative said, “The shock in the Vatican for what happened was enormous.”

Elizabeth Lev, an art historian who leads tours of the Vatican Museums, took to Twitter to vent her frustrations.

Evidently, as COVID-19 restrictions have begun to ease up worldwide, flocks of tourists are once again filling the halls of the Vatican museums — and causing problems.

In another incident in July, a Canadian tourist was caught carving her name into the Roman Colosseum. At another point, American tourists started hurling scooters down the Spanish Steps, breaking off pieces as a result — then, another tourist drove his Maserati into the monument.

In total, the Spanish Steps suffered $27,000 worth of damage.

And before that, earlier this year, tourists crashed drones into medieval buildings in Rome and Pisa.

Inside The Museo Chiaramonti

Screenshot: Museo Chiaramonti virtual tour. Statues and busts inside the Museo Chiaramonti.

Beyond the shame of ancient relics being ruined, damaged, and destroyed by reckless tourists, there is also the fear that, going forward, even stricter guidelines may have to be put in place to prevent such incidents from occurring.

“One of the beautiful things is that [the Museo Chiaramonti] allows the visitors to get literally face to face with these ancient sculptures,” said Mountain Butorac, a frequent visitor who leads pilgrimages to the Vatican. “My fear is that with behavior like this, barriers could be put in place.”


After reading about this outrageous tourist behavior, read about why Greece had to ban overweight tourists from riding their donkeys. Then, read about the woman who stole an artifact from Pompeii — and then returned it because it was “cursed.”

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a bachelor's degree in screenwriting (widely considered to be a bad move) from Point Park University.