The Museum of the Bible in Washington, which has been working to regain credibility by giving back tainted objects in its collection, returned a handwritten gospel that is more than a thousand years old to the Greek Orthodox Church on Tuesday afternoon after determining that it had been looted from a Greek monastery during World War I.
The museum said that it transferred the artifact, which its founders acquired at a Christie’s auction in 2011, to an Eastern Orthodox Church official in a private ceremony in New York. The manuscript is to be repatriated next month to the Kosinitza Monastery in northern Greece, where it had been used in liturgical services for hundreds of years before it was stolen by Bulgarian forces in 1917.
The return was in line with the Museum of the Bible’s policy in recent years of investigating the provenance of its entire collection after early acquisitions by its founders, the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, were found to include thousands of items looted from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. The company paid $3 million in 2017 to settle claims with the U.S. government over not exercising due diligence in a chaotic, multimillion-dollar international antiquities buying spree beginning in 2009.