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Fragments of the Parthenon restored by the Vatican are on display in Greece

Fragments of the Parthenon restored by the Vatican are on display in Greece

Fragments of the Parthenon restored by the Vatican are on display in Greece

Arts

Posted March 25, 2023

written by Elinda LapropoloAthens

Last year, Pope Francis announced the decision to return the 2,500-year-old spheres, describing the decision as a gesture of friendship.

One of the fragments depicts the head of a boy, another the head of a horse, and the third the head of a bearded man.

The head of a bearded man in the photo is on display at the Acropolis Museum. credit: Acropolis Museum

Unveiled at a ceremony at the Acropolis Museum in Athens, it is an exhibition space purposely built to house the Parthenon Marbles.

Greek officials highlighted that the return of the pieces was a step towards the return of the Parthenon sculptures, referring primarily to the much larger collection housed in the British Museum that Greece has been trying to recover for decades.

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The two countries were at odds over the carvings, which were removed from the fifth-century BC temple by Lord Elgin, Britain’s ambassador at the time to the Ottoman Empire who then sold them to the British government.

The marble, also known as the Elgin Marble, is on display in the British Museum where it remains. Their return to Greece is one of the art world’s most famous recoveries.

The horse’s head is one of the parts returned to Greece by the Vatican. credit: Acropolis Museum

Greece’s Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, described the decision as heroic adding that “such initiatives show the path we can follow… in order to restore the unity of the Parthenon”.

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In an initial effort to deflect controversy, the Vatican was careful to characterize the return as a “donation” to the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Jerome II, rather than a state-to-state transfer.

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The offer was immediately accepted by Ieronymos II who said that the parts would go to the Acropolis Museum. He described Pope Francis’ gesture at a ceremony in Athens as “of historic importance”. He also wished for others to “imitate” her.

Law prevents the British Museum from permanently returning artwork to Greece, but reports over the past year have indicated progress has been made in finding a solution.

A boy’s head is displayed next to an earlier gallery depicting boys carrying loads. credit: Acropolis Museum

In January, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph mentioned that an agreement had been made between the head of the museum, former chancellor George Osborne, to allow their return as part of an exchange deal.

The growing support in public opinion in Britain was also greeted as an optimistic sign in Greece.

Addressing the homecoming ceremony as head of the Vatican delegation, Archbishop Brian Farrell said the gesture was “particularly significant in affirming powerfully the friendship and spiritual closeness between our Churches.”

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Part of the Parthenon temple was returned to Athens from a museum in Sicily in 2022.

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