Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios has filed a lawsuit against Princeton University, New Jersey, demanding the return of four Byzantine-era manuscripts allegedly stolen from a monastery in Greece’s Macedonia region during World War I.
The lawsuit, filed December 13, alleges that Bulgarian guerrillas stormed the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa Monastery in 1917, assaulted the monks and made off with the manuscripts, gold florins and other precious items which they loaded onto 24 mules. The looted treasures were subsequently disseminated to dealers and auction houses across Central Europe.
Princeton bought one of the manuscripts from the Frankfurt-based auction house Joseph Baer & Co four years after the raid, in 1921. A trustee and alumnus purchased the remaining three manuscripts from the same auction house three years later, before donating them to the college in 1942.
Princeton officials have said they have no evidence that the manuscripts, currently housed at the college library, were stolen.