[Culture Ministry in file photo]
A 19th-century religious icon that was stolen in 2005 along with 11 others from a monastery in northwestern Greece was returned from the United Kingdom on July 31, the Culture Ministry announced on Tuesday.
The icon, depicting the Baptism of Christ, was removed from the Monastery of the Dormition of the Visokos Virgin, located near the village of Kalouta, in the Zagori municipality of Epirus.
The icon was located in June 2017 by an archaeologist working for the ministry’s Directorate for the Verification and Protection of Cultural Artifacts on sale in a London gallery.
After notifying British authorities and with the help of the Greek embassy on London, the icon was withdrawn from the sales list.
The key to its identification was the back of the icon, which showed that it was part of a church templon or screen, which had been used for two other icons stolen from the same monastery.
One of the other two icons was located in another London gallery and returned in 2011 and the second was recovered in Greece.
The ministry said Epirus monuments have been targeted by organised gangs in the last 25 years.
It also said that two more icons from another monastery in the region were located on sale in a Germany auction house in 2020 and the process of their return is still pending.