Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010

Michelangelo's Pietà

Michelangelo's Pietà, one of the most famous religious sculptures of all time, depicts the Virgin Mary holding the lifeless body of Jesus in her arms. Michelangelo created it in 1499 at age 24; it is the only sculpture he ever signed.

In 1972, Laszlo Toth, 33, a Hungarian-born Australian geologist, climbed over a guard rail in the chapel of the Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica. While yelling "I am Jesus Christ!" he used a hammer to hack away at the marble sculpture, chipping the Virgin Mary's left eyelid, neck, head and veil. He also snapped off her left forearm; her fingers fell off completely as it hit the ground.

Vatican officials retrieved more than 50 marble shards after the rampage, but tourists took many more. The repaired sculpture is now protected by bulletproof glass. Toth was not charged with a crime but instead confined to a psychiatric institution for two years after a court deemed him socially dangerous.