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HomeWorldGreece welcomes back ancient art amid pressure on British Museum

Greece welcomes back ancient art amid pressure on British Museum


The return of Parthenon artifacts from the Vatican increases pressure on the British Museum to respond to a campaign Athens launched 40 years ago.

Greece has welcomed the return of ancient artifacts from the Acropolis, furthering a campaign to urge the British Museum to return a collection of sculptures taken from the ancient site in Athens more than 200 years ago.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni led a ceremony on Friday for the repatriation of three sculpture fragments kept in the Vatican Museums.

The artifacts, which represent a horse and two male heads, 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 Athens.

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

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

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

The gesture pressured the British Museum to reach a settlement with Greece after a campaign launched by Athens 40 years ago.

“Initiatives like this point the way, how to reunite the pieces of the Parthenon and heal the wounds inflicted by barbarian hands so many years ago,” said Mendoni.

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

Mendoni said Greece would be willing to lend the British museum ancient Greek artifacts for exhibition to “fill the gap” if the marbles were returned.

“Greece cannot recognize possession and ownership of the British Museum because it considers the sculptures a product of theft,” she said.

The leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos II, said the “act of Pope Francis is of historic importance and has a positive impact on all levels. We hope it is an example for others.”

Officials from Greece’s Ministry of Culture downplayed comments last month from British Museum president George Osborne that the UK and Greece were working on an arrangement to display the Parthenon marbles in both London and Athens.

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

Greece argues that the Parthenon sculptures are at the heart of its ancient heritage, while supporters of the British Museum argue their return could undermine museum collections and cultural diversity worldwide.

Carved in the 5th century BC, the Parthenon sculptures were taken by the British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century before Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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