Home Church & Religion Precious Manuscripts Return to their Rightful Owners

Precious Manuscripts Return to their Rightful Owners

NEW YORK, NY – [Archive Photos: GANP/ Dimitris Panagos]

Three manuscripts dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries will be returned by the Swann Galleries to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in a formal Repatriation Ceremony on Friday, April 28, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero. 

According to an announcement by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in January 2023, GOA’s  General Counsel George Tsougarakis received an unexpected call; Swann Auction Galleries of New York was on the other line. After discovering the origins of three manuscripts, formerly in their collections, they said, they wanted to return them home to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The manuscripts are among nearly 900 religious objects and manuscripts looted from the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa (“Kosinitza”) Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery by Bulgarian combatants during World War I.

During the ceremony, Devon Eastland, Senior Specialist of Early Printed Books at Swann Galleries, will share her insights into the history of the manuscripts, as well as the events that led to the institution’s decision to return them to their rightful home. 

Distinguished Speaker, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, who serves as an Assistant District Attorney for the City of New York and leads its groundbreaking Antiquities Trafficking Unit, will be the keynote speaker. His world-renown expertise in art crime investigations contextualizes the Eikosiphoinissa manuscripts within the broader history of antiquities and heritage object trafficking. 

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America will offer closing remarks. His Eminence will be journeying to Constantinople next month to deliver the recovered manuscripts to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

An 11th-century Greek Gospel manuscript was officially repatriated to the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery by the Museum of the Bible on September 29, 2022. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America was present at the Repatriation Ceremony in Drama.

Previously, on Dec. 3, 2016, a rare ninth century Greek manuscript of the complete New Testament known as Codex 1424, was returned to its rightful owners: the Holy Metropolis of Drama and its Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavlos of Drama; and the Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa from which the manuscript had been stolen by the Bulgarians in 1917. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, was present at the Repatriation Ceremony.