A man dressed as a centurion caused damage to a polychrome balustrade by Baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the San Francesca Romana basilica in this capital while a priest was celebrating Mass, the press reported Sunday.

The vandal burst angrily into the church on Saturday, kicked the wooden door and knocked over everything in his path - ceremonial chairs, benches and even a parishioner who was on his knees praying.

During his destructive rampage, the man shouted: "Inside is God, who is the devil and must be killed," and he managed to tear off some of the polychromed marble from the Bernini balustrade in front of the altar and damage three small Neopolitan-style columns.

"He seemed like a crazy man. He was almost naked and saying insulting (things), without any sense," the church's Benedictine parish priest, Father Virgilio, said.

The church, also known as Santa Maria Nova, is located near the ruins of the Imperial Forum and the Coliseum, where the man, a 30-year-old from Milan with a history of psychiatric problems, usually worked dressed as a centurion posing for photographs with tourists in exchange for tips.

The man was arrested on a variety of charges. EFE