US Museum to return rare 10th century Gospel to Greek Monastery

US Museum to return rare 10th century Gospel to Greek Monastery

One of the oldest extant hand-written gospels, will be returned to the monastery it was stolen from.

The gospel which was written in Greek between the end of the 10th century and the start of the 11th, was located at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

It was stolen in 1917 from the historic monastery of the Virgin Eikossifinissa (“the luminous red one”), built on Mt. Pangeon, by the Bulgarian occupying army.

The recently identified manuscript includes miniatures and depictions of the Evangelists, and is written in two columns with 27 lines per column. The columns measure 18.1 cm by 14 cm.

According to the Metropolis of Drama, the museum notified the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in January that it located the gospel. His All Holiness allowed the museum – which receives a million visitors a year – to exhibit the manuscript until October 2021 and will also lend another three manuscripts from the patriarchate as a gesture of good will.

According to the background provided by the Metropolis, which also thanked Bartholomew for his efforts to repatriate all stolen artefacts from the monastery, Bulgarian soldiers raided the monastery in March 1917 and removed the entire monastic library holdings, including over 430 manuscripts and 470 objects, among them icons and Greek Orthodox ritual objects. Many were sold in the 1920s and found their way into collections in Europe and the United States.

It is the second manuscript after the 9th-century Codex 1424, to have been returned to the monastery. The codex was returned in 2016 by the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.