Polish police detained a 58-year-old man Sunday after he threw vials of black paint at the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, an ancient Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary believed to work miracles.
A protective pane of glass over the painted protected it from any damage, local police spokeswoman Joanna Lazar told reporters.
Guards at the monastery in the southern city of Czestochowa had quickly overpowered the man responsible and handed him over to police, she added.
The detained man had been questioned and was expected to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, Lazar said. His name has not been released.
Lazar added that he could be charged with offending religious sentiment, an offense punishable by up to two years in prison.
“The faithful have been calling us crying to ask what happened,” monastery spokesman Father Robert Jasiulewicz told the news agency PAP.
“We’ve reassured them that the painting is intact.”
Many people in Poland, which is 90-percent Catholic, believe the icon holds special powers.
Every August, thousands of Poles make a spiritual journey to the monastery, a tradition that goes back to 1711 when the bubonic plague decimated Warsaw’s population.
When the epidemic suddenly ended, a brotherhood of knights trekked from the capital to the monastery to offer thanks to the Virgin Mary.
The relic has since enjoyed a cult following at home, and its international reputation was boosted by the late Polish pope John Paul II who was deeply devoted to the icon.