10 November, 2006
A fragment of the Erechtheum, or Erechtheion, a small temple on the north side of the Athens Acropolis, has been returned to Greece after more than 100 years and is now on display in the old Acropolis Museum.
The fragment, a piece of the Ionic temple's elaborately carved architrave (the beam of masonry resting on the columns of Greek temples), was formally handed over to Culture Minister George Voulgarakis on Friday morning by retired gymnastics teacher Birgit Wiger Angner from Sweden, during a ceremony held on the Athens Acropolis.
Angnar had inherited the fragment in 1972 from her father, who was given it as a gift by his brother, naval officer Henning Lund, following a trip to Athens in 1895.
Accepting the fragment, Voulgarakis stressed the great symbolic significance of its return and underlined that retrieving even the least fragment of the Parthenon and the other buildings on the Athens Acropolis was valuable for Greece.
"Mrs Wiger Angner's decision to make this extremely important gesture is linked to the worldwide effort being made for the return of cultural artifacts to their countries of origin. It is chiefly, however, linked with the promotion of the request for the return and reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (Elgin Marbles)," the minister pointed out.
Voulgarakis said the small piece of marble comes from one of the 28 segments of the Erechtheum's architrave. Three of these are now held at the British Museum, one is at the Munich sculpture gallery, ten complete segments are on the monument itself and another three have been reconstructed from fragments.
"Your gesture offers international public opinion one more stimulus to sensitize it to the fate of a unique monument of international cultural heritage, the Parthenon and the surrounding Athens Acropolis," he told Wiger Anger as he presented her with an honorary plaque on behalf of the Greek State, adding that it was also a message to museums abroad to respond to their moral obligation for the cultural cohesion of united Europe.
Visibly moved, Wiger Angner recounted how she was led to her decision after hearing about the effort for the return of the Parthenon Marbles through a seminar held in Sweden in May 2003 by the Stockholm Mediterranean Museum to mark the foundation of a Swedish committee for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. After contacting the committee and the museum, she eventually handed over the fragment in her possession to the Stockholm Museum in 2005, which made arrangements for its official return to Greece.
Urging museums that still have sculptured sections of the Parthenon to follow her example, Wiger Angner expressing hope that the British Museum, which is currently in possession of the most significant surviving sections of the Parthenon's sculptured frieze, would do so in the future.
Source: Athens News Agency