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Stolen in 1917, this thousand-year-old manuscript has just been returned to its rightful owners


Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa monastery recovered one of the oldest handwritten gospels in the world. Since it was stolen during the invasion of Bulgaria in World War I, the manuscript passed through several owners who were unaware of its value. 

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-- A 1,000-year-old manuscript looted during World War I has been returned to the Greek monastery from which it was stolen more than a century ago.

It is one of the oldest handwritten gospels in the world, according to a press release from the American Museum of the Bible, which acquired it in 2014.

The document was written in a Greek monastery in southern Italy between the late 10th and early 11th centuries, the Museum of the Bible reported.

But sometime between the 14th and 15th centuries, it was moved to the Kosinitza Monastery, also known as the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa Monastery, in northern Greece.

When the Bulgarian army invaded Greece during World War I, the soldiers looted the monastery and stole more than 400 precious manuscripts, as well as other books, objects and cash.

Some of the manuscripts were sold in Europe and eventually ended up in American museums.

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Christie's sold Eikosiphoinissa Manuscript 220 in 2011, the museum said, and then bought it from the Oklahoma City Green Collection, which donated it to the Museum of the Bible.


In 2015, the Greek Orthodox Church petitioned several American institutions that held Kosinitza's manuscripts to voluntarily return them to the monastery.

The museum began researching its Greek New Testament manuscripts in 2019, leading scholars to realize that the document had been stolen from the Kosinitza Monastery.

And in 2020, the museum reached out to Eastern Orthodox leaders to express its desire to return the manuscript.

The manuscript was finally returned to the monastery in a formal ceremony Thursday, according to a joint statement from the US Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Museum of the Bible.

“When the Museum of the Bible discovered that this text was illegally and rapaciously removed from the Monastery, it moved quickly, responsibly and professionally to ensure its restoration and repatriation,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who represented His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. during the return ceremony, according to the release.

"We cannot express enough our gratitude to the Green Family, and to the Museum for their Christian and professional service," he said.

"He has set an example for others to follow, and we pray that they do."

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, lent three more manuscripts to the Museum of the Bible as a "gesture of gratitude for the return of the gospel manuscript," the statement added.

George Tsougarakis, general counsel for the US Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, told CNN he hopes the return will prompt other institutions to return manuscripts stolen during the Bulgarian invasion.

The thousand-year-old manuscript has been returned to its home at the Kosinitza Monastery in Drama, Greece.

The repatriation is “recognition of the inequities and injustice that these areas suffered back then, which led to the removal of these priceless artifacts,” he said.

"And it's a way to make the world right again."

He noted that copies of the manuscript will allow scholars to continue studying it from a distance.

But for the monks who revere the manuscript, the physical document represents a powerful connection to the monks who came before them and to the religious tradition itself.

“There is something to be said for touch,” Tsougarakis said.

The ability of monks to say: "'I touched the page that my predecessor touched': it means something, it is a community."

And the Museum of the Bible has set a convincing example for other institutions that have stolen manuscripts from Kosinitza, he added.

"We urge them to do the right thing," he said.

“There is only one correct answer here.

And we expect them to do the same.”


Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-10-02

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