A 39-year old man from Ghana in Africa destroyed several statues at different Roman churches on Friday night and Saturday morning, before being arrested by local police.
The attacks began on late afternoon Friday, when the individual entered the 9th century Basilica of Santa Prassede, just around the corner form the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major. He smashed two statues, one of Saint Prassede and one of Saint Anthony of Padua.
He tried to reach for a crucifix soon after, but Father Pedro Savelli told Crux he managed to stop him before the man from Ghana did anything to it.
According to Savelli, the man kept screaming that this was “a wrong way of using the statues with the children.”
The priest also described the attacker as an “unbalanced man.”
The church, known in English as Basilica of Saint Praxedes, was commissioned by Pope Hadrian I around the year 780, and built on top of the remains of a 5th-century structure. It was designed to house the remains of Saint Prazedes and her sister Saint Pudentiana, daughters of Saint Pudens, who according to tradition was St. Peter’s first Christian convert in Rome.
The two sisters were murdered for providing Christian burial for early martyrs in defiance of Roman law. The basilica was enlarged and decorated by Pope Paschal I in the ninth century.
From Santa Prassede, the un-identified man from Ghana went to the Church of San Martino ai Monti, where he smashed a devotional statue of the Madonna and Child.
On Saturday morning, he continued his vandalism raid, going to the Basilicas of San Giovanni de’ Fiorentini and San Vitale. In both places, he destroyed statutes, candlesticks and crucifixes.
His religion, or the motive behind his attacks remain unknown.