Two 18th-century Greek Orthodox icons that had been stolen in 2007 from a monastery outside Ioannina, northern Greece, were returned this week after being located in Germany.
The two works, one depicting Christ Pantocrator and the other Panagia Portaitissa (Virgin Mary), were removed from the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the Zagori village of Makrino, near Ioannina.
The icons were handed over by German authorities to the Consulate General of Greece in Düsseldorf, Germany on October 5.
The Ioannina Ephorate of Antiquities had documented and photographed the two ecclesiastical works and following their theft posted the photos on Interpol’s stolen works of art database. Last April, the ministry’s Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property identified two icons set to be auctioned off in Düsseldorf.
“The culture ministry has made it an absolute priority to curb antiquities theft, identify, and repatriate cultural goods that have been illegally exported from Greek territory,” said Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.
The minister went on to note that over the 2000-2010 period, dozens of monasteries in the Northern Greece Region of Epirus had been repeatedly looted with art works, icons and other items of worship making their way out of the country.
Mendoni added that thanks to the close cooperation of local, regional, Greek, and international authorities, “a significant number of these items have been found in galleries and auction houses abroad and have already been repatriated”.