Pope Francis has returned three ornately carved fragments from the Parthenon to Greece from the Vatican to correct wrongdoings. The sculptures were showcased at the Acropolis Museum, which was purpose-built to house the marble in view of the fifth-century monument.
The Return of The Three Parthenon Fragments
According to The Guardian, the return of the artifacts, which had been part of the Vatican Museums’ holdings for over two centuries, is historically significant and positively impacts multiple levels. The repatriated fragments are a small part of a much larger collection of works removed from the temple over 200 years ago and are still held by the British Museum. The fragments’ homecoming marks a step towards reuniting artworks regarded as the high point of classical art.
Greece’s Culture Minister, Lina Mendoni, described Pope Francis’ decision to return the Parthenon fragments as heroic, saying it shows how the pieces of the Parthenon can be reunited to heal the wounds caused by rough hands many years ago.
The delicate task of reinstating the relics involved gloved workers on a mechanized ladder removing the plaster casts that had been in their place. In the final fragment, the head of the bearded man was inserted among the sculpted relief panels, some of those present were moved to tears, and a moment of silence was followed by applause.
During a recent visit to Athens, Bishop Brian Farrell, the Vatican’s secretary for promoting Christian unity, led a delegation that returned three fragments of the Parthenon to Greece. The return of the fragments was discussed during a visit by Pope Francis in 2021. The pieces had been held in the Vatican Museums for over 200 years.
In the article on Aljazeera, Farrell referred to the return of the fragments as a “cultural and social gesture of friendship and solidarity” towards the people of Greece. He expressed the Vatican’s happiness to fulfill Greece’s “legitimate wish” to return the fragments to their origin.
The return of the fragments is seen as putting pressure on the British Museum to settle with Greece. Athens launched a campaign for the return of the Parthenon sculptures held at the British Museum 40 years ago.
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Hopeful This Move Will Inspire Others to Return the Other Fragments
Greece is hopeful that the return of the Parthenon fragments by the Vatican will encourage other overseas institutions also to give back Parthenon sculptures to their rightful place and home. BBC reported that around 50% of the Parthenon’s original sculptures have survived, and almost half are held at the British Museum.
The culture minister of Greece, Lina Mendoni, praised the Vatican’s gesture and drew attention to similar moves made by the government of Sicily and the Republic of Italy a few months earlier. She hoped this would inspire others to follow suit in restoring the unity of the Parthenon.
During the ceremony, dignitaries, including the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, exchanged handshakes and smiled for the cameras. Archbishop Ieronymos expressed his wish that other institutions would follow in the Vatican’s footsteps, stating that Pope Francis had shown that such a gesture was possible and significant.
Related Article: Vatican To Return but in the form of ‘Donation’ 3 Parthenon Sculpture Fragments To Greece In Historic Gesture