The Vatican has returned three fragments of the Parthenon from the Pope’s collection to Greece. The repatriated relics – the carved heads of a boy, a horse, and a bearded man – were unveiled in a ceremony at the Acropolis Museum in Athens on Friday.
The sculptures were formerly held in museums in the Vatican. The decision to donate the artifacts was announced in December. Holy See Cardinal Fernando Vérgez said the gesture was intended “to build bridges of fraternity,” adding that “the Pope’s art collection must become an important point of contact between peoples, faiths and the churches.”
Greece’s Orthodox Christian Archbishop Ieronymos II called the transfer an act of “historical significance and [one that] has a positive impact on multiple levels,” in remarks to journalists in the Acropolis Museum on Friday. He added that he hopes others will heed the example. Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni echoed the sentiment, saying that “initiatives like these show the road that we could follow…in order for the unity of the Parthenon to be restored.”
A world-famous monument and an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, the Parthenon was severely damaged in the 17th century. In the 19th century, British diplomat Lord Elgin took a number of parts of the surviving statues to the UK, where they are now exhibited at the British Museum. Despite petitions from Athens, London has refused to return the artifacts.