The Roman Colosseum in summer
Anton Aleksenko/istockphoto

30 Times Vandals Defaced Treasured Landmarks

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The Roman Colosseum in summer
Anton Aleksenko/istockphoto

Crimes Against History

Landmarks are part of the fabric of our culture, public nods to history, the arts, religion and more. When a treasured landmark is defaced, it’s more than just a prank. Read on for just a sampling of the countless instances — from local landmarks to world-renowned sites — when vandals marred what many hold dear.


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The Mystery Castle in Arizona
Wikipedia Commons

The Mystery Castle

Phoenix

Not all beloved landmarks are world-famous. Just last month, The Phoenix Times reported that after vandals “trashed” the Mystery Castle in South Phoenix, the community was coming together “to support the artistic treasure.” The South Phoenix landmark, some 75 years old, is a stone mansion and, the news outlet reported, its “whimsical architecture and touching history have made the landmark beloved in Phoenix. It was designated a city ‘point of pride’ in 1992.” Built in the 1930s by a Seattle man — in the area recovering from tuberculosis — for his daughter, the castle fashioned out of stone and scrap sports nearly 20 rooms decorated with “trinkets and art” collected by Boyce Luther Gulley and his daughter, Mary Lou, over the years.


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Row of American Flags
ghornephoto/istockphoto

Veterans Memorial

Moreno Valley, California

It was just last month when the Veterans Memorial in Moreno Valley, California, which honors local soldiers killed in action, was desecrated. NBC Los Angeles reported that an arson investigation was underway; the early morning fire was put out but the plants around the sculpture “were left visibly charred” by what the mayor called a “horrible and cowardly act.”


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Pinturas rupestres en los alrededores de Solana del Pino
Pinturas rupestres en los alrededores de Solana del Pino by Danielduquerodriguez (CC BY-SA)

Peñón del Muerto

Castilla-La Mancha, Spain

Local residents “were left stunned,” Spanish News Today reported when “a giant Spanish flag appeared painted over 6,000-year-old cave drawings on Peñón del Muerto in Castilla-La Mancha” in February 2022. The defacing of the landmark, protected by the local Heritage Law, in the popular — and historic — mountain region prompted the local mayor to call it a “profoundly unpatriotic” act.


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Tourist around the Cloud Gate (
Tiago_Fernandez/istockphoto

The Bean

Chicago

A popular sculpture known as “The Bean,” which is set in Chicago’s Millennium Park, was vandalized in February of this year. This is the latest instance of vandalism, NBC Chicago reported, to the 110-ton sculpture by British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor that is formally known as “Cloud Gate.” In this most recent incident, an 18-year-old was arrested for spray painting graffiti on the work of art.

Scala dei Turchi with turquoise mediterranean sea- Sicily, Italy
margouillatphotos/istockphoto

Scala dei Turchi, or Turks’ Steps

Realmonte, Italy

Earlier this year, CNN reported on an act of vandalism in Sicily, when vandals used red pigment to deface the tourist attraction known as Scala dei Turchi, “a distinctive cascade of marl limestone rock jutting out of the Mediterranean.” The site, where legend has it was a landing site for Arabic soldiers, was “shamefully defaced,” wrote Nello Musumeci, Sicily’s president, further noting, the “cowardly gesture,” was “an outrage not only to a landscape asset of rare beauty but also to the image of our island.”

 

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Southernmost USA south point to Cuba key west
FrozenShutter/istockphoto

Southernmost Point Buoy

Key West, Florida

The Key West landmark dedicated to the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. started 2022 off on the wrong foot. The buoy was defiled in the early hours of New Year’s Day when two men — caught on surveillance camera, as reported by NBC News — set a Christmas tree on fire, damaging the popular tourist photo-op (“one of the most photographed attractions in the United States,” according to DestinationFlorida.com). The suspects were to face criminal mischief charges.

Hidden Treasure
Tim Speer/istockphoto

Big Bend Rock Art

Big Bend National Park, Texas

The CNN report in January of this year was jarring: “A panel of prehistoric stone artworks, thought to be between 4,000 and 8,500 years old, have been ‘irreparably damaged’ by vandals at Big Bend National Park in Texas, the U.S. National Park Service has said.” The archeological site is home to the ancient petroglyphs, which were defaced with several first names and the date of 12/26/21. It is believed that repairs will be impossible. A National Park Service release on the incident quoted Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker: “Big Bend National Park belongs to all of us. Damaging natural features and rock art destroys the very beauty and history that the American people want to protect in our parks… With each instance of vandalism, part of our Nation's heritage is lost forever.”  

Mont Valerien Monument in France
Mont Valerien Monument in France by Remi Jouan (CC BY-SA)

Mont Valerien Monument

Suresnes, France
Vandalism often reflects its time, as was the case with the December 2021 marring of a French memorial to World War II soldiers and Resistance fighters. The Times of Israel reported that a COVID-related defacing of the Mont Valerien monument in Suresnes prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to call it an “insult” to the nation’s memory. The 1960 monument was vandalized with the phrase “Anti Pass,” an anti-health pass slogan, “painted in large letters, with the style of the double-s reminiscent of that used by Nazis for their SS inscriptions,” the Israeli news outlet reported.

Charging Bull sculpture in New York City
AndreyKrav/istockphoto

The Charging Bull Statue

New York

In December 2021, the famed Charging Bull statue in New York’s Wall Street district — an Arturo Di Modica bronze sculpture created in 1989, gracing the city’s financial district ever since — was defaced with swastikas, as reported by outlets including News4 New York, the local NBC affiliate. A camera caught a man with a limp in the act, one of a trio of attacks believed to have been made by the same suspect in an 11-day span. The act was condemned as a hate crime by both the city’s mayor and the state’s governor.


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Glasgow Spanish Civil War Memorial
theasis/istockphoto

Spanish Civil War Monument

Motherwell, Scotland

A memorial to Scots who fought in the Spanish Civil War, erected in 2012 in the Duchess of Hamilton Park in Motherwell, was trashed in the summer of 2021. Words such as “Franco,” “vermin” and Fascist symbols were painted on and around the monument. As the Scottish newspaper The National shared, “The defacing of the monument to the brave souls from North Lanarkshire who fought against fascism in Spain in the 1930s is sickening and disgusting.”

Megalithic entrance stone, Loughcrew, county Meath, Ireland
Manifestive_Media/istockphoto

The Loughcrew Cairns

Oldcastle, Ireland

It seems that many an act of vandalism reflects someone feeling the need to state their having been someplace. In another such case, IrishCentral reported in April of 2021 that such a case of vandalism was perpetrated on a landmark, 5,000-year-old tomb in County Meath, Ireland — something that cannot be repaired. Graffiti including the words “Ben was here” were scratched into stone at the Loughcrew Cairns, some of it “etched over pre-existing megalithic art.” As Mythical Ireland noted on Facebook, “Whoever Ben is, I hope that you feel proud of yourself for vandalising a monument that is likely to be over 5,000 years old.”

Sinnataggen
Wikimedia Commons

Sinnataggen or Angry Boy Sculpture

Oslo, Norway

The news was grim for the little fella, as reported by The Local in Norway: “Norway's famous Sinnataggen or Angry Boy sculpture has been removed for repairs after vandals attempted to saw off its left foot.” This April 2021 act of vandalism was the latest assault on the iconic circa-1928 bronze sculpture, what The Local further called “a national treasure and arguably the most famous work by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland.” It has been on display in Oslo’s Vigeland Sculpture Park since 1940.

Great Wall of China in Summer
Hung_Chung_Chih/istockphoto

The Great Wall of China

Badaling, China

Three tourists got caught writing their names on the Great Wall of China, a March 2021 act that got them detained and fined, according to Today Online. While there aren’t many details, it seems that this type of vandalism has happened quite often over the years leading to a decisive action, Today Online further reported: “The Beijing municipal government introduced a blacklist last April and threatened to name and shame tourists who damaged the wall.”

Long Man of Wilmington hill figure
Khrizmo/istockphoto

The Long Man of Wilmington

Wilmington, England

The British chalk-figure monument known as The Long Man of Wilmington has been billed as “Europe’s largest portrayal of the human form.” The 235-foot figure, a geoglyph etched into the earth in East Sussex, has unknown origins (but is believed to date at least back to 1710) and purpose. The landmark got a decidedly modern spin when it was vandalized in January of 2021, a COVID mask painted onto the monument. The Independent reported that local police said, “This criminal damage is an affront to those who work to maintain this heritage asset for the enjoyment of all.”   

The Roman Colosseum in summer
Anton Aleksenko/istockphoto

The Colosseum

Rome
An Irish tourist was caught by private security carving his initials into a pillar of the 2,000-year-old monument known as The Colosseum back in 2020, CNN reported. One the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this Italian landmark and World Heritage Site has a sad history of vandalism, including a 2014 carving of the letter “K” by a Russian tourist, which, The AP reported at the time was the fifth act of vandalism at the amphitheater that year by a foreign tourist.

WInston Churchill, The statue overlooks the Houses of Parliament
WInston Churchill, The statue overlooks the Houses of Parliament by David Holt (CC BY)

Winston Churchill Statue

London

A monument to the famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was defaced in London in September of 2020. As reported by Reuters, the statue was “sprayed with graffiti by protesters declaring him a racist for the second time in four months.” The statue was previously defaced that June, “during a fractious end to a mostly peaceful protest over the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, prompting authorities to board it up for a period. Floyd’s death in police custody in May sparked protests about racial inequality across the United States and Europe and reignited a debate in Britain about monuments to those involved in the country’s imperialist past.”

Little mermaid statue, Copenhagen, Denmark.
LisaStrachan/istockphoto

The Little Mermaid Statue

Copenhagen

She’s apparently a vulnerable little lady. The AP reported that in July of 2020 that “The famed statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, one of Copenhagen’s biggest tourist draws, has been vandalized with the text ‘racist fish.’” It was said to be yet another incident for the “oft-attacked” bronze sculpture that sits in the harbor in Copenhagen.    

Graceland, Memphis.
CaronB/istockphoto

Graceland

Memphis, Tennessee

In 2020, the Daily Mail shared the story of how the stone walls surrounding Elvis Presley’s iconic home, Graceland in Memphis, were vandalized with politically motivated graffiti including “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police.” The defacing of the legendary singer’s home for the two decades before he died in 1977 left locals and many fans stunned, as the report noted.


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Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock by jjron (CC BY-SA)

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock is the historic (1889) monument that commemorates the arrival of the Mayflower some 400 years ago. In February of 2020, NBC News reported, vandals targeted a number of historical landmarks in the area as the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, was celebrating its quadricentennial. The report added that Plymouth Rock “is thought to be the largest solid granite monument in the world,” and was “tagged with what appears to be red spray paint.”

A scene of hunting depicting an archer, Graffiti Rocks (Qaryat al Asba)
vdvornyk/istockphoto

Rock Carvings

Pangaion Hills, Greece

In January of 2020, 3,000-year-old rock carvings on the Pangaion Hills in northern Greece, near Kavala, were destroyed by vandals. As Keep Talking Greece reported, “According to state-run news agency amna, unknown vandals have scraped several carvings depicting human figures, animals, plants and other scenes of day-to-day life off rocks in the area using a wire brush.” The carvings were discovered in 1966.

Poinsett Bridge in South Carolina
Poinsett Bridge in South Carolina by Geekasms (CC BY-SA)

Poinsett Bridge in South Carolina

Landrum, South Carolina

It was in November of 2019 when a historic South Carolina landmark was defaced. Considered “the oldest surviving bridge in South Carolina,” as reported by 7 News WSPA, the vandalism came to light when social media posts showed the Poinsett Bridge’s historic stones painted in many colors. The bridge, on Callahan Mountain Road in Greenville County and built in 1820, is one landmark worth protecting, said John Nolan of Greenville History Tours: “There’s no cement in it. Those stones are hand cut. They’re wedge shaped along the opening. They’re all laid in place and hold each other up. It’s amazing construction.” And, the act was shocking to Nolan: “I’ve lived here almost 30 years and I’ve never heard of that being vandalized so it’s just really sad.” Clean-up efforts were undertaken in hopes of preventing further damage.

Dolmen a Casa dos Mouros in Spain
Dolmen a Casa dos Mouros in Spain by Lansbricae (CC BY)

Dolmen a Casa dos Mouros

Vigo, Spain

Oh, those wizards. As reported by Ancient Origins, “a pop archeology” website, this 4,000-year-old megalithic tomb in Spain — a popular tourist site — was vandalized with Harry Potter references in 2016. “A vandal has defaced a fine specimen of an ancient dolmen tomb, made of large rock slabs, in Vigo, Galicia, Spain. The graffiti vandal spray-painted the word ‘Always’ and arcane symbols, both references to the Harry Potter movies.”   

Abraham Lincoln statue in Washington
bloodua/istockphoto

Lincoln Memorial

Washington, D.C.

The famed monument honoring Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, in the nation’s capital isn’t usually surrounded by crime-scene tape — but that was the case in July of 2013. As reported by The Washington Post, nighttime vandals had splashed paint on the majestic statue, with the National Park Service saying, the news outlet further noted, “It was the first time that the majestic memorial was vandalized since its dedication in 1922.”


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Entrance of Luxor
Wilfredo Nieves/istockphoto

Temple of Luxor

Luxor, Egypt

Leave only footprints … A 15-year-old Chinese boy felt the need to leave more when he was visiting the Temple of Luxor in Egypt back in 2013. As reported by The Independent, “The parents of a Chinese teenager who scratched his name into a 3,500-year-old Egyptian artwork have apologised for his actions after internet users tracked down the boy to name and shame him.” The graffiti? “Ding Jinhao was here,” written in Mandarin.

Manhattan skyline and Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn
Joel Carillet/istockphoto

Green-Wood Cemetery

Brooklyn, New York

A cemetery is usually a place of rest, but back in 2012, the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn was desecrated. As The New York Daily News reported at the time, “Ghoulish thugs do $100,000 damage, trash more than 50 graves at historic Brooklyn cemetery.” It further reported that groundskeepers found “ravaged” plaques, statues and “even a trampled 19th-century American flag scattered Tuesday throughout the 478-acre patch of green that first opened in 1838.” The cemetery is the final resting place of conductor Leonard Bernstein and other notables.   

Raoul Wallenberg Statue in Hungary
Raoul Wallenberg Statue in Hungary by Yelkrokoyade (CC BY-SA)

Raoul Wallenberg Statue

Budapest, Hungary

It was a scene that sounded quite unsettling. As The Times of Israel’s headline read in 2012, “Blood-oozing pig’s feet found hanging on edifice honoring Swedish diplomat who saved Jews during the Holocaust.” The Raoul Wallenberg statue in Budapest was covered in blood in an act of vandalism that prompted, the news outlet reported, the Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to label it, “another painful reminder that anti-Semitism is not extinct.” 

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro
dislentev/istockphoto

Christ the Redeemer Statue

Rio De Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer, a world-renowned landmark that stands proudly overlooking Rio de Janeiro, was rocked by vandalism back in 2010. As Reuters reported, “Vandals covered Rio de Janeiro’s towering Christ the Redeemer statue with spray-painted graffiti, marring the world-famous monument in an act Rio’s mayor called a ‘crime against the nation.’” How was it done? The head, arms and chest of the 130-foot statue were defaced with the help of scaffolding that was in place for maintenance work.


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The Alamo
The Alamo by Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA)

The Alamo

San Antonio

What kind of art project? In San Antonio, back in 2009, an Illinois man wrote on “the state’s most treasured landmark,” as reported by KVUE-TV, an ABC affiliate. It shared that, “Police said the letters ‘l-c-c’ were scribbled on the north wall. They have since been wiped clean.” And the tourist said, “he did it as part of an art project.”

Skulls in the Catacombs of Paris, France
Clinton Harris/istockphoto

The Paris Catacombs

Paris

It was back in 2009 when the famed Paris Catacombs, which The Associated Press called “Paris’ underground bone collection,” were vandalized. As the story picked up by The San Diego Union-Tribune noted, “Ordinarily, the creepy collection of human remains — cleared from city cemeteries long ago — is orderly, with bones piled in stacks along underground tunnels. But a post-vandalism photo in Le Parisien newspaper showed bones and skulls scattered along the walking paths.” It would take several months before this decidedly eerie attraction was safely re-opened.

 

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Easter Island Statues Rano Raraku Moais Rapa Nui
Mlenny/istockphoto

Easter Island Statues

Easter Island, Chile

The monumental statues known as Moai are the iconic treasures of Easter Island, the small island in the Pacific Ocean that belongs to Chile. Back in 2008, as reported by The Seattle Times, “A Finnish tourist was detained after allegedly stealing a piece of volcanic rock from one of the massive Moai statues on Easter Island.” A 26-year-old man was accused of “stealing a piece of the right earlobe from a Moai, one of numerous statues carved out of volcanic rock between 400 and 1,000 years ago to represent deceased ancestors.”


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