The Vatican will ‘Donate’ Parthenon marbles to the Greek Orthodox Church

  • Three Parthenon fragments will be returned by the Vatican to the Greek Orthodox Church as a “donation.”
  • Since 1803, when Greece claimed they were stolen, the Vatican Museum has kept the fragments.
  • Parthenon marbles have been a part of Greece’s quest for years to be reclaimed from The Vatican and British Museums.

After more than 200 years, Vatican agreed to return to the Greek Orthodox Church fragments of marble taken from the Parthenon.

The Vatican called the “donation” of the fragments back by Greece, a major victory in their ongoing campaign to regain artifacts from the Parthenon that are kept in The Vatican or British museums.

Pope Francis initially thought of a long-term loan of fragments to Greece. However, he “decided not to lend the works outright,” Giandomenico spinola, head of the Vatican Museums’ archaeology division. told The New York Times, adding that — as a donation — the return should be seen outside of any debate on the restitution of additional marbles housed at the British Museum.

The British Museum, London. Parthenon sculptures of Ancient Greece. These fragments are known as the Elgin Marbles. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Parthenon sculptures from Ancient Greece at the British Museum, London. These fragments are called the Elgin Marbles, and they are different from the ones returned to Greece by Vatican.

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

“The Holy Mother Francis, as a concrete indication of his sincere desire for continuing the ecumenical voyage of witness of Truth has decided to give His Beatitude Hieronymos (2), archbishop in Athens and all Greece three fragments of Parthenon which have for centuries been carefully preserved and exhibited before millions of visitors from around the world,” read the entire brief statementThe Vatican released information on Friday on the subject.

The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports is located in a statementThe pope’s decision was “generous”, and he expressed hope that the British Museum would follow suit by returning the fragments.

Insider reached out to the Vatican and Church of Greece for comment but they did not immediately respond.

Visitors looks at the Cariatyds of Erechtheion in Athens on April 6, 2022. - The new director of the Acropolis Museum has called for an end to the long-running dispute for the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece, noting that London's parliament could rule on the issue. (Photo by Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP) (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Visitors look at the Cariatyds of Erechtheion, Athens, April 6, 2022. – The Acropolis Museum’s new director has called for an end of the long-running dispute over the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. He noted that London’s parliament could decide on the matter.


Greece has long sought the return artifacts taken form the Parthenon, a temple dedicated the goddess Athena that is located on the coast of Greece. Athenian AcropolisThe ancient citadel is now one the most prominent ancient archaeological sites worldwide.  Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire’s central government, took marble fragments from the historical site. Elgin sold the relics in 1803 to the Vatican Museum and in 1816, additional fragments to British Museum. 

“Our position is very clear” The Guardian reportedKyriakos Miostakis, the Greek Prime minister, stated. “The marbles were taken in the 19th Century; they belong in Acropolis Museum, and we need to address this issue in earnest.” 

The British Museum has 15 metopes and 17 pedimental figures. It also has 75 meters of the original 160-meter long frieze. This is a long, decorative, horizontal panel that was taken from the same structure as fragments from Vatican II.

While there are fragments in Paris, Copenhagen, Munich, Vienna, Palermo, and Würzburg — in addition to the Vatican and the British Museum — about halfThe British Museum is home to many of the original sculptures.

Officials from the British Museum maintain that the fragments were “removed (not removed from the temple’s surfaces”) from the Parthenon. The Guardian reported.

“Over the years, Greek authorities as well as the international scientific community have shown with unshakeable arguments what true events surrounding the removals of the Parthenon statues,” Lina Mendoni, Greece’s culture minister, stated in a statement. The Guardian. “Lord Elgin used inequitable and illegal means to seize and export the Parthenon statues, without real legal permission. It was a blatant act in serial theft.”

The British Museum did no immediate respond to Insider’s request.

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