Greece welcomes fragments of Parthenon sculptures

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni led a ceremony for the repatriation of three fragments of sculptures, representing a horse and two male heads, from the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, which had been kept in the Vatican Museums.

“Initiatives like these show the way, how the pieces of the Parthenon can be put together, healing the wounds caused by barbarian hands so many years ago,” said Ms. Mendoni.

“This brings us to the just and moral demand of all the Greek people, and of this government and its prime minister, for the final return of all the Parthenon sculptures.”

Greece Vatican Acropolis Fragments
A ceremony was held to mark the return of the fragments of the sculpture (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

The fragments will be added to the collection of the Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009 at the foot of the ancient site in the center of the Greek capital.

The Vatican called the return an ecumenical “donation” to the Greek Orthodox Church, but the gesture added pressure on the London museum to reach a deal with Greece after a campaign launched by Athens 40 years ago.

“This act of Pope Francis has historical significance and has a positive impact at all levels.

“We hope it will be an example for others,” said the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos II.

Greece says the Parthenon sculptures, carved in the fifth century, are at the core of its ancient heritage, while supporters of the British Museum say their return could undermine museum collections and cultural diversity globally.

Greece Vatican Acropolis Fragments
A newly placed male head, left, on a frieze at the Acropolis museum (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Athens has long demanded the return of the Parthenon sculptures, which were removed from Greece by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, when he was British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Last year, another marble sculpture fragment from the Parthenon temple, depicting a foot of the ancient Greek goddess Artemis, was returned to Athens from a museum in Palermo, Sicily.

Bishop Brian Farrell, the Vatican secretary for promoting Christian unity, led the visiting delegation to Athens and said the return of the three fragments from the Vatican had been discussed during a visit by Pope Francis to Athens in 2021.

“The donation of the fragments of the Parthenon that have been kept in the Vatican Museums for more than two centuries is shown as a cultural and social gesture of friendship and solidarity with the people of Greece,” Bishop Farrell said.

“We assure you of our intimate joy for the realization of your legitimate desire to have the fragments at home in their place of origin,” he added.


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