Vatican City tour guides are resisting the idea of extra security measures at St Peter’s Basilica, after two acts of vandalism occurred inside the basilica last week. Source: Crux.
The incidents prompted some commentators to ask whether further security measures - akin to the glass in front of Michelangelo’s famed Pieta - are needed. But several guides who regularly take pilgrims and tourists to admire the priceless art and artefacts, and to pray before the saints entombed in the basilica, are resisting the idea, saying such barriers risk compromising the sacred nature of the space.
Last Wednesday a man described as “unstable” was reportedly arrested by Vatican police after tossing a candelabra off the main altar in St Peter’s.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported the man climbed over the ropes surrounding the main altar at the centre of the basilica, which sits beneath the famed leafy canopy sculpted by Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini and above what are believed to be the bones of St Peter, and threw the candelabra to the floor.
Two days later, a man climbed onto the platform near the main altar and began smashing a crucifix sitting on top.
Agnes Crawford, a British native who’s been a tour guide in Rome for the past 18 years, was leading a group inside St Peter’s when the incident took place.
While it was alarming that it was the second act of vandalism in a week, Ms Crawford said she is not in favour of tougher restrictions.
“If every time somebody tries to do something, you put up fences and walls and glass barriers, then everything becomes hermetically sealed, when the vast majority of people are perfectly reasonable,” she said.
St Peter’s “is primarily a church, it’s not primarily a museum, and it would be rather sad if everything becomes sanitised,” Ms Crawford said, insisting that more vigilance is needed, not blockades or restrictions.
Other regular Vatican guides voiced similar fears that the sacred artefacts in St Peter’s would be seen only behind a wall of glass, like the one now surrounding the Pieta following an incident in 1972 when a deranged man attacked the sculpture with a hammer.