Rare 1,000-year-old manuscript looted from Bulgarian forces now given back to Greek monastery by the US

A valuable 1,000-year-old Christian manuscript that was taken by Bulgarian forces from a monastery in northern Greece more than a century ago has been returned, along with hundreds of other documents and artefacts, by a U.S. museum.

At a ceremony on Thursday at the Eikosiphoinissa Monastery, the 11th-century gospel was solemnly delivered in front of guests including Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and representatives from the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

The Greek manuscript, one of the oldest handwritten gospels in existence, is thought to have been created in southern Italy, according to the Archdiocese of America.

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In 2014, it was given to the museum after being purchased at auction. Officials at the museum later recognised it as one of the manuscripts taken from the monastery in 1917 and communicated their wish to restore it to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual head of all Orthodox Christians worldwide.

Elpidophoros on Thursday praised the Museum of the Bible for its “courtesy in recognizing where (the manuscript) belongs and returning it.”

“A historical injustice has been redressed,” he said.

Marauding soldiers from the nearby country of Bulgaria kidnapped the gospel along with another 430 priceless manuscripts and hundreds of other sacred relics. The majority remain missing.

During World War II, Bulgarian occupation forces affiliated with Nazi Germany set fire to the 8th-century monastery. Since then, it has been renovated and serves as a convent.

(With inputs from agencies)


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