On Monday 23 May 2011 at 5:00PM the icon of the Crucifixion of Christ, which was stolen from the Church of the Chains of Christ (Elkomenou Christou) in Monemvasia in 1979, was finally returned after being held in the Byzantine Museum of Athens after it was rediscovered in 1980. It is now held in the Chapel of St. John within the Church of the Chains of Christ. Metropolitan Eustathios of Monemvasia was there to receive the icon. A Vespers Service was held followed by a Supplication Service to the Honorable Cross. On the morning of May 24th a Divine Liturgy was held to further celebrate the event.
The icon was stolen in November of 1979 by three looters who caused severe damage to the image, removing the canvas from the painting and chopping it up. By the time police arrested the perpetrators in 1980, the damage had been done. The best iconographers of our time helped restore the icon, who reassembled the dismembered parts and placed the canvas back onto the painting. To bring the icon back to Monemvasia safely cost 200,00 euro.
This 14th century icon of the Crucifixion is one of the largest and most beautiful of the Palaiologan Renaissance, and is therefore priceless. The Church of Christ of the Chains is the largest church of the Lower City of Monemvasia and dates to the 11th century. It takes its name from a 12th century image of Christ within where Christ is held in chains with His head tilted downwards.
Originally the Byzantine Museum of Athens rejected the return of the icon due to security issues. Eventually the Central Archaeological Council was in favor of the move. Metropolitan Eustathios of Monemvasia and Sparta also was in favor of the return of the icon. Plans have been underway for its return since 2006.
The Chapel of St. John, where the icon is now kept, has a 24-hour state-of-the-art security system.
To read more about the Church of the Chains of Christ in Monemvasia, see here.
The videos below show the return of the icon to Monemvasia: