December 5, 2008

Would a pan-European museum solve the Parthenon Marbles Problem?

Posted at 10:54 am in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Further coverage of the proposal by Professor Francesco Buranelli that the formation of a pan-European museum is the best way to facilitate the reunification of all the surviving Parthenon sculpture fragments.


Pan-European Museum Would Solve Parthenon Problem, Says Vatican Official
Published: December 4, 2008

ROME—Francesco Buranelli, a Vatican official, says he has a solution to end the longstanding Elgin Marbles problem once and for all, reports the Times (London): to build an extraterritorial, pan-European museum in Athens in which all the known parts of the Parthenon could be united.

Greece has been trying to get the set of marble sculptures back from England for decades, and has stepped up its efforts as of late in anticipation of the completion of its new Museum of the Acropolis in Athens.

The objects were brought to England in 1801 by Lord Elgin, then British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, after lying on the ground since 1687, when the Parthenon was attacked by a Venetian cannonball. England believes Elgin saved the works and allowed for their conservation, while Greece believes they belong in the country nonetheless.

Buranelli, the Vatican’s head of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, says his solution would circumnavigate one of the central issues of the Elgin Marbles negotiations: countries’ unwillingness to give up their perceived ownership of artifacts.

Under his plan, he says, the countries that own Parthenon fragments — Britain, France, Germany, Denmark and the Holy See — could then “put them on permanent display, maintaining their legitimate ownership of the works while bringing together a heritage which belongs to the whole of humanity.” The director “should probably be British,” he said, “given that Britain holds the majority of the Marbles.”

The result, he said, would be a new model “with full respect for present-day ownership,” in which European countries “could promote for the first time a truly international museum, with a European statute and staff, with the sole intention of giving back to humanity the patrimony that belongs to it.”

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