American Getty Museum to return 12th century Byzantine New Testament manuscript to Mt. Athos

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has announced that it will return the 12th century New Testament manuscript with invaluable miniatures depicting scenes from the Gospel stories to the Athonite Dionysiou Monastery, reports Romfea.

The museum acquired this manuscript—a masterpiece of the Byzantine arts—in 1983 as a part of a larger collection. However, as the museum has informed, recent research conducted by the Greek Ministry for Culture and Sports together with the Getty Museum, indicated that the manuscript had been taken from the monastery unlawfully. 

This supposition was confirmed by a recently discovered entry in the monastery records of 1960, which says that the manuscript had indeed disappeared from the monastery. Neither then, in 1960, nor later was the information on its disappearance published. Nobody notified the authorities of the loss, and the manuscript is not listed in any databases of stolen artworks, the museum stresses.

"Relying on the new information, which throws light on all these events, the museum has decided that it will be right to return the manuscript to the Holy Dionysiou Monastery, from which it disappeared over 50 years ago. The monastery records, which has only lately become accessible to us, is of decisive importance," said Dr. Timothy Potts, the Getty Museum's director.

Now the manuscript is a part of the Getty Museum's exposition, "The sky and the earth: the Byzantine art at the cultural cross-roads", which was represented at 14 exhibitions.

The precious lost manuscript will return to the Dionysiou Monastery after June 22, when the exhibition at the Getty Center in Brentwood closes.

In 2011, the Getty Museum signed a memorandum of understanding with Greece, according to which both sides shall undertake a struggle with unlawful circulation of cultural heritage objects. This agreement also stipulates the cultural exchange and holding of joint research studies, the Los Angeles Times newspaper specifies.