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2 vandals attack, damage a bust of Jesus in Copley Square library

Statue of Lucifer left untouched

The busts of Lucifer (left) and Jesus have adorned the landing between the first and second floor since the library opened.
The busts of Lucifer (left) and Jesus have adorned the landing between the first and second floor since the library opened. (Boston Public Library)

A 160-year-old marble bust of Jesus was attacked at the main branch of the Boston Public Library earlier this month, knocked from its perch on the grand staircase and sent crashing to the floor. Nearby, a matching marble bust of Lucifer was left untouched.

Library surveillance video given to police showed a man and a woman attacking the bust at 2:40 p.m. Sept. 12. The female suspect was seen on the video throwing an object at the sculpture and forcing it off a ledge, according to a police report.

"People reported hearing a crash," said Mary Bender, the library's communication manager.

The two vandals ran out of the library. Police canvassed Copley Square without luck.

The two busts were sculpted by Horatio Greenough circa 1845 and have adorned the landing between the first and second floor since the library opened in 1895. The works sat protected behind a railing.

The head of Lucifer has long locks of curly hair to portray the archangel shortly after he fell from grace, before evil and sin sullied his good looks, Bender said. The bust of Jesus rested on two angels, which sat on top of a coiled snake.

It was not the first time the bust was attacked.

In the 1970s, a man lunged at the bust and tried to vandalize it, Bender said. Before the man could do any harm, he was tackled by an employee from the circulation desk who was returning from lunch, she said. The bust of Lucifer was not attacked by the man.

After the latest attack, the library plans to fix the bust of Jesus, which broke into a few pieces, Bender said. Lucifer's bust has been removed from the grand staircase until the library can determine a secure way for it to be displayed. The library cast doubt on any role that Lucifer, statue or devil, may have played in the vandalism of the bust of Jesus.

"You never know," Bender said. "He also works in mysterious ways, I suppose. Who knows what goes through someone's head when they do something like this."

Andrew Ryan can be reached at aryan@globe.com.

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