of other sacred works
FROM MICHAEL WILSON IN VATICAN CITY
A FURIOUS attack on
M ichelangelo's masterpiece, the Pieta, in St. Peter's last Sunday has spotlighted abruptly the difficulties, in some cases the impossibility, of guaranteeing the safety of such world famous works of art.
But the Pieta could have been protected from such wild hammer blows as broke the Madonna's left arm and nose and splintered 50 pieces of marble from the sculpture.
Had Lazio Toth, the Australian of Hungarian origin who shouted, "I am Jesus Christ" U.S he swung his heavy hammer against the Pieta, come to St. Peter's one month from now he would have found the sculpture protected by a bullet-proof glass screen.
What happened to the Pieta has dramatised the need for immediate action to ensure maximum protection of works of art, mainly sacred in Italy, not only in the Vatican but through the country.
"It would be marvellous to be able to say that this could never happen again," said Camillo Cibin, Commandant of the Vatican's Vigilant Service, the one-time Gendarmerie. "That is impossible, but We should make it so
difficult that the chances of a recurrence would be less than one in a million."
He added somewhat bitterly: "How can I do that with 83 men of the former Gendarmerie Corps to guard the 1,400 rooms and chapels of the Apostolic Palace and the Gates, Courtyards and Gardens of the 108.7 acre Vatican City State'?" Reports of valuable triptyches, paintings and other church objects being stolen from churches and chapels all over the country come in continuously.
DEVICES The Vatican museums are. probably among the best protected in the wyrId, says Dr. Deoclecio Redig De Campos, Director General of Pontifical Monuments, museums and galleries.
"We have electronic devices everyivhere — I will not detail where — and we have special museum guards. But we are at the mercy of a maniac."
Prof. Matthie, Superintendent of Rome's Art Galleries, was pessimistic over 100 per cent protection against determined vandals, but not over protection from thieves, who have been the major bane of Italian sacred art.
"It is a question of money. If the government were to make available immediately some 10 billion lire (f6.6m) we could instal electronic protection in thousands of museums and churches."
The new Italian Parliament convened this week, and one of the first bills on the agenda is to study ways and means of affording art protection.
"What is lacking is political determination to push through a bill, so this may take years," said the Professor sadly. The major museums of Rome and other main Italian cities are protected electronically but not even the _Florence Uffici has yet been ordered the bullet-proof glass used by the Louvre museum in Paris to protect the Mona Lisa.
Group approves research on living foetuses
RESEARCH work on living 2-% foetuses obtained from abortions is approved in a report by a Government advisory group, published this week.
The group, led by Sir John Peel, the Queen's gynaecologist, was set up in May, 1970 following allegations by Mr. Norman St: John-Stevas, Conservative M.P. for Chelmsford, that abortion clinics were selling live foetuses for research work.
The report says: "In general we feel that the contribution to the health and welfare of the entire population is of such importance that the development of research of this kind should continue subject to adequate and clearly-defined safeguards."
The report says that research work should be limited to foetuses of 20 weeks' gestation which the group considered as the minimum limit of viability.
It also says that foetuses and foetus material should not be sold.