May 21, 2009
Today in geology weirdness news – in 1972 (May 21st), Michelangelo’s statue Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was vandalized by a Hungarian geologist named Laszlo Toth.
“Wielding a Geologist’s hammer and shouting, “I am Jesus Christ — risen from the dead”, he attacked the statue, and removed the Virgin’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids. He was never charged with the crime, in view of his apparent insanity. On January 29, 1973, he was committed to an Italian psychiatric hospital. He was released on February 9, 1975, and was immediately deported to Australia where he had studied prior to the attack; Australian authorities did not detain him. He is believed to reside in Melbourne, Australia.”
This immortal act has spawned into American culture. He inspired at least two books by Don Novello, and was used in the development of the character Father Guido Sarducci, who appeared frequently on Saturday Night Live.
The attack did shed some positive light. The Vatican announced that in repairing the statue, a previously unknown monogram or secret signature of Michelangelo – an “M” fashioned from the skin lines – was discovered on the palm of Madonna’s left hand.