ROME -- A small part of the ceiling of the famous Basilica of the Holy Cross in Florence, Italy, broke off today, hitting and killing a tourist who was visiting the church, Florence police told ABC News.
The stone piece, about 6 inches by 6 inches, fell nearly 60 feet after it broke off near a chapel on the right side of the church, where it had been supporting a beam, according to reports. The man, who was visiting with his wife, was 52 years old and was from Barcelona, Spain, local media said.
The Basilica of the Holy Cross, the Basilica di Santa Croce in Italian, is the burial site of Michelangelo, Gioachino Rossini, Niccolo Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei.
The church was immediately closed as police and firefighters fought to save the man’s life, but he died at the scene, according to local media. Italian reports said his wife was near him at the time and witnessed the impact.
“Deeply sorry for the incident at the Basilica of the Holy Cross where a Spanish tourist was killed,” Florence’s Mayor Dario Nardella tweeted in Italian. “Engineers from the ministry are already on site.”
Tourists continued to line up outside even as the church remained closed and an investigation was conducted, Italian media reported. The Florence prosecutor opened an investigation for manslaughter, according to Italian wire service ANSA.
A tour guide who was in the church at the time told Italian media that the piece fell near the third chapel on the right side of the transept. He said he did not see the stone hit the man but heard his wife cry out.