Looted 10th Century Manuscript Is Finally Going Home Thanks to Museum Researchers

One of the oldest surviving hand-lettered gospels, the Eikosiphoinissa Manuscript 220, is being returned to the Greek monastery it was pilfered from during the first World War. The manuscript was looted in 1917 by Bulgarian soldiers as part of a haul of over 430 manuscripts and 470 objects from the monastic library of the Virgin Eikossifinissa (“The Luminous Red One”), built on Mt. Pangeon in Greece.

The 10th-century manuscript has been to many places and passed through many hands since 1917, until finally it was bought by the Museum of the Bible at a Christie’s auction in 2011.

Museum curator Brian Hyland painstakingly identified the gospel through annotations made throughout the text, including notes that the looters had left for themselves to catalog the books they had stolen. Those from Kosinitza received the initials M. K. or K. (Manastir Kosinitsa). This manuscript, along with many others, had MK scrawled on the back cover. Once they confirmed the finding, the Museum of the Bible notified the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that it had been one of the objects stolen during World War I. Museum representative Dr. Jeff Kloha personally visited the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul to tell him of the discovery.

Aside from the 1917 additions, this gospel manuscript includes miniatures and depictions of the Evangelists, is written in two columns with 27 lines per column. The columns together measure 18.1 cm by 14 cm (7.13 inches by 5.5 inches).

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew granted the museum to display the priceless Eikosiphoinissa Manuscript 220 until October 2021 as a gesture of good will and will also lend another three manuscripts from the patriarchate.

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