Looted Monastery Manuscripts Rediscovered During Office Renovation

In 2008, Manhattan’s Swan Auction Gallery sold three 16th- and 17th-century Greek manuscripts to an antiquarian who returned them two years later after concluding that they may have been looted.

The dealer was refunded, but was unable to contact the person who entrusted the item, according to auction house officials. was almost lost in

But three months ago, the manuscript was redisplayed when Swann’s chief financial officer visited his office before the renovation. On a shelf in a long-forgotten plastic bag lay a manuscript thought to have been stolen from a Greek monastery during World War I.

In 1917, Bulgarian fighters are said to have looted nearly 900 items from the Patriarch of the Theotokos Eikosifoinissa, often called Kosinitsa in northern Greece, and from the Stavropegiar Monastery, believed to have been lost. It is

The manuscript has been sent back to the convent, and its return will be commemorated at a repatriation ceremony in Lower Manhattan on Friday. After the ceremony, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, arranged by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, will travel to Constantinople to deliver the manuscripts to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church. From there, the items return to Kosinitsa.

In a statement, Archbishop Elpidophoros said, “It is a blessing for the monastic order of Theotokos Eikosifoinissa Monastery to see the contents of the former library slowly being returned. It said the church wants to return them to other organizations it has as well.

The scale of systematic looting by Nazi forces during World War II tends to obscure the fact that works of art were routinely looted during other conflicts. Bonaparte was known to have looted art during military campaigns, said Leila Aminedre, a lawyer specializing in arts and heritage law who has consulted lawyers seeking the return of documents they say. said. Taken away from the monastery.

But while some looting is organized for the empire and its ambitions, the chaos of war also provides a cover for theft by combatants who act on their own initiative rather than on orders, Aminedre said. said.

“Sometimes looting goes from country to country,” she said. “It can also be committed by individuals as a crime of opportunity.”

The looting of Kosinitsa seems to fall into the second category. The monastery, which he founded around the fifth century, is said to have had a collection of about 1,300 volumes by the 18th century, an Eastern Orthodox official wrote in a 2015 letter. Officials looted the Bulgarian guerrilla forces that the monastery looted his library in 1917.

Four days after the attack, a letter from a local official to the Greek foreign delegation in Sofia said that about 60 bandits entered the monastery, where they attacked men and hauled out the booty using 24 mules. was

After its recent rediscovery in Swan, the yellowed manuscript made its way to the desk of Devon Eastlund, senior specialist in early printed books at the auction house.

One, entitled “Commemorative List of the Venerable Patriarchal Monasteries of Our Most Glory of Women and Mother of God in Kosinitsa”, contains a list of former monks of the monastery and those who donated to the monastery. increase. A priest with a special prayer after the liturgy. Another document contained the signature of a monastic official.

“I wanted to know where to put the manuscript,” Eastlund said in a recent telephone interview. “If it was stolen, it had to be returned to the people from whom it was stolen.”

Eastlund says her work was facilitated by investigative notes sent by an antiquities dealer, and writings within the manuscript point to Kosinitsa as the source. After reading her notes, Eastlund wrote to George Tugalakis, legal counsel for the Greek Orthodox American Archdiocese, telling him about her manuscript.

Tugalakis sued Princeton University on behalf of the monastery in 2018, saying the university’s collection contained manuscripts looted from Kosinitsa. The university responded that it was confident that a provenance check had confirmed that the manuscript had not been looted.

In the past few years, Washington, DC’s Museum of the Bible and Chicago’s Lutheran Seminary have recovered items that can be traced back to the 1917 theft from Kocinica. The Morgan Library and Museum in New York has agreed to extend the loan of her 12th-century manuscript donated in 1926 to the convent, he announced in 2021.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button