12th-century Byzantine manuscript returned to Greece

byzantine manuscript - image courtesy the Getty Museum After being stolen from a monastery over fifty years ago, a 12th-century Byzantine manuscript has been returned to Greece by the J. Paul Getty Museum.

This richly illustrated codex of the four gospels was created in Constantinople by the scribe Theoktistos in 1133. In 1960 the manuscript was stolen from the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos in Greece. However, the theft was never made public and it was not included in databases of stolen art. Twenty-three years later the Getty Museum purchased the codex from a private collector.

Earlier this year the Getty Museum and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports worked together to uncover what had happened to the manuscript and make arrangements for it to be returned to the monastery.

Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, said in a statement “Based on new information that came to light through this process, the Museum decided that the right course of action was to return the manuscript to the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou from which it disappeared over 50 years ago. The Monastery’s report from 1960, which only recently became available to us, was crucial in reaching this decision.”

Panos Panagiotopoulos, Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, added “We applaud the Getty for their responsiveness to this matter. Their decision to return this precious Byzantine manuscript honors the spirit of our 2011 Framework for Cultural Cooperation. The decision also clearly demonstrates the respect the Getty Museum has for Greek cultural heritage and encourages us to continue to build and strengthen our collaborative relationship for the future.”

The manuscript is now on exhibition at the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens until October 30, after which it will be returned to the library at the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos.



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