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The Bishop in Europe and the Elgin Marbles

17 April 2015


From the Revd Dr Nicholas Cranfield

Sir, - Bishops, I am sure, are quite allowed to express their opinions about the Elgin Marbles and the part played by the British Museum Trustees as guardians of the world's heritage.

Elsewhere in print I have expressed much the same concerns as the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe (Letters, 20 March), although he should be aware that an appeal to members of the Church of England from an address in Brussels might occasion a somewhat mixed response.

The Bishop is in a unique position to take on other curators within his jurisdiction. A word with the Holy Father might lead the Vatican to surrender its holdings of the Parthenon marbles, while the National Museum in Copenhagen and the Louvre might also be approached.

Thirty years ago, when a close friend completed his doctorate at Würzburg University, I recall seeing the marbles in that university collection after his graduation; there are other sculptural fragments of the Parthenon in Munich and Vienna.

That done, the Bishop might lend his voice to the locally impoverished Cretan community of Ierapetra, and support the cause championed by Nikos Papadakis from 1985, the return of the "Elgin marbles of Ierapetra".

The exiled archaeological treasures from that southernmost city in the diocese in Europe include two sarcophagi in the British Museum (nos. 2296 and 2324), a treaty signed in the second century BC between the Hierapytnians and the city of Priansos, now in Oxford, and much else besides.

Sadly, the illegal exportation of antiquities and of works of art is only now steadily gaining international recognition for what it is - theft.

Nicholas W. S. Cranfield

All Saints' Vicarage, 10 Duke Humphrey Road, London SE3 0TY

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