When monuments become targets

Cultural monuments targeted by vandals

Landmark attack

Graffiti on the façade of the Arc de Triomphe, smashed glass cases inside, a beheaded marble bust of Napoleon and plundered showrooms: During the riots in the wake of the Yellow Vest movement protests in Paris, the iconic Arc De Triomphe has suffered damage amounting to around one million euros. French President Macron responded with strong words: "I will never accept violence."

Cultural monuments targeted by vandals

Besmirching a Danish icon

When environmental activists drenched Copenhagen's The Little Mermaid in blood red paint, the soiling of the landmark came with a clear message. Written on the shore in front of the monument were the words: "Denmark defend the whales of the Faroe Islands." Placed as a tribute to Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in 1913, the mermaid has often been damaged, with rioters twice decapitating her.

Cultural monuments targeted by vandals

'Feed the homeless'

It took just 48 hours for this David Bowie monument to be defaced by activists after its grand unveiling in March, 2018. A slogan was quickly added to the foot of the the UK's first public statue of Bowie that shows the musician as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. "Feed the homeless first," it read. The smear campaign was likely a response to the cost of the monument, including £100,000 crowdfunding.

Cultural monuments targeted by vandals

Patriotic protest

This statue of Immanuel Kant in the Russian city of Kaliningrad — the philosopher was a resident when it was part of East Prussia — was paint bombed in November, 2018. As the city's airport was to be named after the German philosopher, patriotic vandals also put out leaflets reading: "Banish the name of this enemy German with an Orthodox cross!" Kant is also the namesake of the local university.

Cultural monuments targeted by vandals

Unholy Walls

This nearly 160-meter-high cathedral is actually the pride of Cologne. Nevertheless, the landmark has to constantly face vandalism of every kind: Public urination, broken stone work and graffiti on the facades. Indeed, the entrance to of the world's third largest cathedral even had to once withstand the collision of a small car. The annual cost of the damage is estimated at €60,000.

Cultural monuments targeted by vandals

Shameless public peeing

Berlin's iconic landmarks are also not immune from vandalism. A 22-year-old was fined €1500 after he urinated on the venerable Holocaust Memorial. Meanwhile, the open-air museum known as the East Side Gallery has also seen its fair share of public peeing, graffiti and general damage to the wearing former wall. Thankfully, a railing will soon protect the monument.

From the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, famed landmarks that are a magnet for visitors are repeatedly misused as a platform for protests — as the Yellow Vest riots in Paris prove.

Protestors defaced Paris' Arc de Triomphe during Saturday protests with statements like "Triumph of the Yellow Vests" and demands for French President Emmanuel Macon to step down.

The slogans on the facade are only part of the damage caused by protesters. Vandalism on the inside will cost up to €1 million ($1.14 million) to fix, said Philippe Belaval, head of the National Monument Authority. The Parisian landmark is now closed to visitors for several days. 

Read moreMacron holds crisis talks after worst urban riot in 50 years

Immortal fame via arson

Vandalism as a means to an end is by no means a modern phenomenon. As early as 356 B.C., Herostrates set the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — in order to attain eternal glory.

However, devastation and willful damage are not always aimed at a specific personal or political goal.

Sometimes, it's just wanton desecration, as our picture gallery above shows.

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