JESOLO, ITALY — On April 15, a Pagan outdoor temple in Italy once again became the target of vandals. However, this time the act was caught on camera. As a result, five men were arrested when temple owners turned over the footage to police. It showed these men using temple chairs to smash a statue of Nike of Samothrace.The Federazione Pagana, a Pagan polytheist group affiliated with the temple, noted that this was not the first time the outdoor temple had been vandalized. The group believes that the attacks may be motivated by ingrained religious bigotry. In a Venice Today article, one member was quoted as saying, “Is there any difference in the motivation of the person who did this from the motivation of [ISIL] to destroy Assyrian antiquities? If you ask [initiated] Pagans, there is terrorism evident from the hatred shown by the vandals. But I am convinced that if these are just random hoodlums, the actions are the result of Catholic education. What sense does it make to break Nike’s wing? Or what sense is there in taking out your rage on a public statue.” (April 17, 2015)
The land the temple sits on is privately owned by a member of the Federazione Pagana, which is headed by Claudio Simeoni. The Federazione Pagana is part of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER).
In a press release dated April 19, ECER member organization the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE) made “an appeal to the entire civilized world asking for the condemnation of the desecration of the open air sanctuary of the Italian Pagan Federation (Federazione Pagana) in the town of Jesolo near Venice, by five Christian fundamentalists on Wednesday April 15.” The release continues on, saying:
The fact that the perpetrators were arrested, because the owners of the sanctuary managed to capture the attack on a video camera, should not placate us or lead us to believe that such an attack could not happen again anywhere in Europe, when people are still being indoctrinated by faiths that instill in them hatred for everything different.
According to the Unione Comunità Neopagane (UCN), the Federazione Pagana and its leader Claudio Simeoni are considered somewhat controversial. In a statement to The Wild Hunt, UCN Public Information Officer said, “I want to underline that, as Unione Comunità Neopagane, we strongly are against every form of violence (wherever it arrives or in every kind of form). But we have to underline that we have nothing to do with him and his group … We sadly note Claudio Simeoni and Federazione Pagana are, in their online pages, promoters of religious intolerance. Even if we understand the animosity against some religious groups, we are not Pagan because we are against someone or somewhat, but because we share common principles of freedom and inclusion.“ The UNC said that it is not yet clear if the vandalism was due to religious bigotry or retaliation for the comments Simeoni made against other religions and against homosexuality.
The UCN spokesman went on to say that generally Pagans don’t face legal problems in Italy. However, the group also said that the Catholic church still has a very strong influence in the country, and that the UCN was originally created to give protection to groups and associations. “We are nothing alone, but we are strong all together. And we live in a country where you must be strong, united and organized if you want to obtain something like civil rights.” UCN also has a Pagan temple, based in Milan, that is very accessible, and the UCN spokeman said that that they too have experienced vandalism or violence directed toward that space.
At this time, there is no mention of the motive for the recent vandalism. The five suspected vandals have been questioned and released, pending charges for trial.