The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., has returned a handwritten Gospel manuscript, which is more than 1,000 years old and was looted from a monastery by Bulgarian troops in 1917, to the Greek Orthodox Church.
MOTB curator Brian Hyland identified the manuscript, one of the world’s oldest hand-lettered Gospels, as part of hundreds of priceless objects looted from the Kosinitza Monastery in Greece during World War I, the museum said in a statement, adding that they had purchased it at a Christie’s auction in 2011.
A formal return ceremony will be held at the monastery in northern Greece on Monday, the MOTB said.
The manuscript had been used for hundreds of years in religious services, along with more than 400 volumes, before being taken by Bulgarian forces, ARTnews said.
In 2020, the museum informed Patriarch Bartholomew I, about the intended return of the manuscript, which entered the museum’s collection in 2014. The Patriarch then allowed the museum to display the manuscript from October 2021 onwards.
The patriarch also loaned three more manuscripts “as part of the collaboration in a permanent exhibit at the museum as a gesture of gratitude for the Gospel manuscript’s return,” the museum said.
MOBT, which has investigated all of its collections in recent years, said it “hopes that other collections in the U.S. that also possess manuscripts from the monastery will likewise voluntarily return them to their rightful home.”
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