Greek museum move raises debate over Elgin marbles

  • 15 October 2007

A massive operation is underway to remove some 4,500 antiquities from the Acropolis in Greece to a purpose-built museum 400 yards below.

The marble carvings created by Phidias, which have rested atop the Parthenon for 2,500 years will, over the coming months, be moved to the £94 million museum below.

Bystanders watched as a massive 2.5-tonne slab of marble dangled from a giant crane, marking the beginning of the event.

Culture minster Michael Liapis said it was ‘the move of the century’.

He added: ‘It’s a historic event not just for Greece but the international community.’

The move puts increasing emphasis on the campaign to have part of a 160-metre strip of marble returned to Greece.

The marble portraying the Panathenaic procession was sold to the British Museum by Lord Elgin 200 years ago.

Designed by Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi, the museum is expected to open next year.

‘My hope is that one day, the marbles will be returned and people can see them reunited, in one place,’ he said.

‘The concept was to restore the continuity of the narrative. The sculptures were never a single object, they told a story.

‘This way visitors will see the sculptures in their narrative sequence and will ask whether they should be back in Athens.’

The museum’s upper gallery reproduces the exact dimensions of the Parthenon temple - and will underpin the Greek government’s push to have the marbles returned.

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