June 16, 2024

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The Pope hands over the Vatican Parthenon marble fragments to the Greek Orthodox Church


Pope Francis has ordered the Vatican Museums to return three parts of the Parthenon to Greece amid a global reckoning in which Western institutions have begun to return remains and artifacts to their countries of origin – or have rejected demands to do so.

The marble sculptural pieces, which include the remains of a 520-foot frieze from the 5th century BC, once covered the famous temple’s exterior walls and showed a procession of the goddess Athena, and have been in the Vatican Museums’ collections since the 19th century. .

In a statement released Friday, the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports He expressed his gratitude to the pope’s “generous” decision and hopes the move will pressure the British Museum, which contains dozens of Parthenon fragments, to return the controversial Elgin Marbles. Eschewing the heated issues of restitution and repatriation, Pope Francis framed the return as a “donation” to Greek Archbishop Jerome II and “a tangible sign of his sincere desire to follow the ecumenical path of truth,” Associated Press mentioned.

Talks about the Parthenon fragments have swirled in recent weeks after a Greek newspaper report said The British Museum has held secret talks with the Greek government About Elgin Marble Restoration.

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During the 1687 Venetian siege of the Acropolis, many of the Parthenon’s friezes and decorative elements were destroyed. In the early 19th century, the British diplomat Thomas Bruce, better known as Lord Elgin, sent more than half of what remained to Britain – a move that critics, including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, consider a robbery. (Gene Notorious Books That such antiques would look good in his home.)

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Today, most of the surviving marbles are in the British Museum or the Acropolis Museum, while a handful remain elsewhere.

The British Museum denied claims that it would return the artifacts, say in the current situation that while he is open to “partnership” with Greece, “we will not dismantle our fine collection because it tells a unique story of our common humanity.” And for decades, the museum has criticized efforts to get it to return the marbles, citing policies against filibustering.

What makes the collection “remarkable” and who to hear that “unique story” are subjects of fierce debate among museums these days. For some institutions – such as the Smithsonian Institution which recently Update its collection policy The moral imperative to return some things outweighs other interests. The pope’s decision to return Greek artifacts is one of many similar acts around the world.

Recently, several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Smithsonianto Nigeria the artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes, stolen by the British in a deadly invasion in 1897. Last year, Gilgamesh Dream Tabletwhich was on display at the Museum of the Bible and is believed to have been looted from an Iraqi museum, has been returned.

This is not the first time that the Vatican Museums have returned objects from their collections. In October, museums He gave three ancient mummies Back in Peru, and in 2008, they did is back One Parthenon Marble for Greece on loan for one year. It also may not be the last. When the Pope visited Canada this summer, the country’s indigenous groups He demanded the return of several things It is located in the Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum of the Vatican.

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For now, the pope’s decision seems to focus on repairing relations with the Greek Orthodox Church. Pope Francis last met Archbishop Jerome II on a visit to Greece in December 2021, during which he apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in fomenting a schism with the Greek Orthodox Church. Tensions were high on that trip. a A Greek Orthodox priest was caught on video screaming “Pope, you are a heretic,” says the Catholic leader, reflecting the historical mistrust between the churches.

The artifacts that the Pope intends to return to Greece include a marble head of a boy, a horse’s head, and a bearded head. The Acropolis Museum in Athens has a Parthenon gallery built to house the marbles, but it is not yet clear where it will go once it arrives. Back in Greece. No date has been announced for their return.