Greek church leaders sue Princeton University over Stolen Manuscripts

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Princeton University

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is suing Princeton University for the return of four Byzantine manuscripts allegedly stolen from a Greek monastery during World War I.

According to reports the well-known American college received the items as a gift in 1942 from a trustee and alumnus who had bought them from a German auction house nearly 20 years earlier.

But in a lawsuit filed Thursday,  Patriarch Bartholomew said the manuscripts were stolen and demanded their return, as he says they had been taken during World War I from a monastery in Kormista, a village in northern Greece.

The suit also seeks damages in the amount of the manuscripts’ current market value, however, the amount wasn’t specified in the lawsuit.

A Princeton University spokesman argued on Wednesday that the school’s research hasn’t produced evidence the manuscripts were stolen.

Two of the documents are parchment manuscripts dating to 955 and 1081, respectively. A third is  a page fragment from the 955 manuscript, “Saint John Chrysostom’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Homilies 1-45).”

A fourth manuscript was written at the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa Monastery in northern Greece in the 16th century, according to the lawsuit.

“Because the Manuscripts were stolen, Princeton was unable to, and never did, acquire good title or any interest in the Manuscripts,” the lawsuit states.