Greek Americans Campaign for Return of Stolen Byzantine Manuscripts

Kosinitza Monastery, northern Greece, which once housed the precious manuscripts.

The Hellenic American Leadership Council has started a campaign for the return of a number of stolen rare Byzantine manuscripts to Greece.

The religious manuscripts were housed in the Kosinitza Monastery, near the city of Drama in northern Greece. However, in 1917, during World War I, Bulgarian guerrillas looted the monastery and stole the priceless Byzantine-era manuscripts.

The stolen papers were scattered across the world. Some of them are now at Duke University, Princeton University and the Morgan Library in the U.S.

In November 2016, a rare 9th century Greek manuscript (Codex 1424) of the complete New Testament, which had been stolen from the Kosinitza Monastery, was returned by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) to the Greek Orthodox Holy Metropolis of Drama.

The Greek Orthodox Church has begun a campaign to bring other parts of the stolen material back home, as the priceless artefacts are also important cultural objects.

The Hellenic American Leadership Council has joined the Greek Orthodox Church in the campaign and prepared a petition to be signed and sent to the above institutions:

“I am a Greek Orthodox Christian, and I have learned that your institution is in possession of Holy manuscripts that were stolen during World War I from the Kosinitza Monastery in Drama, Greece. These manuscripts are an important part of our faith and history and were wrongfully taken from the Monastery.

“I urge you to return these manuscripts as soon as possible. There is certainly precedent for such action: other institutions have returned stolen art and artifacts, including the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago which returned a manuscript stolen at the same time and from the same location as the ones that are in your collection.

“Please, right this wrong and return these manuscripts to their rightful owner.

Thank you.”