March 31, 2007
The Pope has rejected a request by the Archbishop of Athens last year that the Vatican returns a fragment of the Parthenon sculptures which is held in its museum.
Greece talks tough on Parthenon marbles
PM says UK has run out of ‘feeble excuses’ over return
Helena Smith and John Hooper
Friday March 30, 2007
The Greek prime minister, deploying the strongest language yet for the return of the Parthenon marbles, yesterday said that Britain had run out of “feeble excuses” to retain the treasures.
At a ceremony to mark the return to Athens of two art works Greece has long claimed from the Getty Museum – and the imminent completion of a £94m Acropolis museum – Costas Karamanlis said it was only a matter of time before the sculptures’ repatriation.
“The universal demand for uniting the marbles of the Parthenon is gaining in strength and reach,” he said as the 4th century BC golden wreath and marble statue were unveiled at Athens’s National Archaeological Museum. “This and the completion of a new, super-modern museum … will foil all the feeble excuses that are put forward for their non-return. It is our urgent priority to reclaim every ancient artefact that was illegally exported to museums and collectors abroad.”
The 5th century BC marbles were removed from the Acropolis by Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin, in 1801. They were bought by the British government from Lord Elgin for £35,000, after a parliamentary vote in 1816 in favour of acquiring them for the nation, and vested “in perpetuity” in the trustees of the British Museum.
Over the past year the Greeks have been emboldened by the return to Athens of a host of treasures, including artefacts from the Acropolis that ended up in Germany and Sweden. The Greeks have also taken heart from polls that have shown the majority of Britons supporting the marbles’ return.
However, Hannah Boulton, a spokeswoman for the British Museum, said yesterday that while the museum recognised the 1970 Unesco convention deploring illicit trade in antiquities, the Parthenon sculptures could not be seen in the same light.
“They were acquired lawfully after detailed parliamentary scrutiny at the time, and have been on public display for free for 200 years,” she said.
Meanwhile Pope Benedict has decided to turn down a request from Greece’s religious leader to hand back pieces of the Parthenon housed in the Vatican museums, the Italian news agency Ansa reported yesterday. Quoting Vatican sources, the agency said the Holy See’s rejection would soon be communicated officially.
The Orthodox archbishop of Athens and all Greece, Christodoulos, asked for the sculpture fragments to be returned at a meeting with the Pope last December. The Vatican has in the past refused a similar petition from the Greek government.
- Greek Archbishop asks Pope about return of Parthenon fragment : December 15, 2006
- Vatican Parthenon frieze fragment returns to Athens : November 5, 2008
- More on the Vatican fragment loan : November 5, 2008
- Parthenon Fragment returned to Greece by Vatican : November 6, 2008
- Parthenon Marbles fragment returns to Greece : November 6, 2008
- Palermo fragment from Parthenon Marbles returns : October 5, 2008
- New Zealand parliamentary committee says Parthenon Marbles should be returned : March 9, 2006
- Greece makes claim on statue loaned to Louvre : December 20, 2006