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Vatican returns Parthenon sculpture fragments in move that could add pressure on British Museum to do the same

Three fragments from the Parthenon sculptures have been returned by the Vatican to Greece. This could put pressure on the British Museum.

These sculptures of a horse and two heads for males were created originally as part the Parthenon temple at Athens. They have been kept in the Vatican Museums since more than two centuries.

Two years ago, Pope Francis visited Athens to discuss their return. They will soon be included in the Acropolis Museum’s collection.

Lina Mendoni, Greece’s culture minister, said that “Initiatives such as these show how the Parthenon pieces can be reunited and heal the wounds left by barbaric hands so long ago.”


“This brings us to the just, moral demand of all Greeks, as well as of this government, its prime minister, for all sculptures from the Parthenon’s final return.”

About half the original sculptures are still in existence today.

Ms Mendoni stated that her country cannot recognize possession or ownership by the British Museum as it considers the sculptures stolen.

The sculptures were captured by Lord Elgin, a British diplomat. This was before Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire.

The Greek government has been fighting for the return of sculptures from London for many years, claiming that they are part the country’s heritage.

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The Elgin Marbles may one day be returned to Greece

However, the British Museum claims that they could be lost and that Elgin acted with the “full knowledge of and permission from the legal authorities of the time in Athens as well as London”.

At a ceremony to return the sculptures from the Vatican on Friday, Archbishop Ieronymos II, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, stated: “This act of Pope Francis has historical significance and has had a positive effect at all levels… We hope that it sets an example for other countries.”

A fragment of another sculpture from the Parthenon temple depicting the foot of the ancient Greek goddess Artemis was returned to Athens last year from a museum located in Sicily.


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