Exactly fifty years ago, on May 21st 1972, Michelangelo's celebrated sculpture of the
Pieta, in St Peters Basilica, was attacked and seriously damaged. The assailant was Laszlo Toth, a deranged thirty-three-year-old Hungarian-born Australian geologist.
Toth struck the statue with a hammer (a tool of his trade) fifteen times, declaring: 'I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead'. He was wrestled to the ground by a group of bystanders, but not before he had seriously damaged the sculpture, severing Mary's left arm at the elbow and removing the end of her nose.
Toth was briefly hospitalised, before being deported, and the statue was skilfully repaired. Since then it has been protected by a bullet proof screen of glass.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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