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Thessaloniki Man Arrested After Found with Protected Religious Antiquities

A Thessaloniki man was charged with possessing protected religious antiquities after police found crosses, church icons, and other artifacts in his home and warehouse. Above, the defensive walls of Thessaloniki.

Police charged a Thessaloniki man with holding a museum’s worth of Byzantine-era relics in his home, including church icons, crosses, candlesticks, and a holy chalice. Authorities confiscated the artifacts, which were also discovered in a warehouse belonging to the 59-year-old man, who was unidentified.

He was allegedly trying to sell the possessions online when he was caught, according to the Hellenic Police (ELAS), which made the arrest announcement.

The artifacts, which also include doorposts, metal discs, containers, and wood parts of a holy temple, are believed to date back to the Byzantine and post-Byzantine eras.

Thessaloniki Antiquities Believed to be Protected

A representative from the Ephorate of Antiquities of Karditsa—within the Ministry of Culture and Sports— said the goods are believed to be protected antiquities and will be sent for further testing and examination.

Greek authorities are constantly on the lookout for stolen artifacts, taking part in investigations at home and around the world.

In February, the Manhattan District Attorney in New York announced that fifty-five Greek stolen antiquities valued at over $20 million were to be repatriated to Greece. That announcement followed a sweeping investigation into billionaire Michael Steinhardt, owner of one of the world’s largest private ancient art collections. Among those were eight prehistoric artifacts from Thessaly drawn from another investigation that was still ongoing.

Greek authorities in 2018 arrested three people in Sparta in connection with a significant find of ancient artifacts, along with cash and firearms. A 55-centimeter statue, lacking its head and an arm, was thought to be a representation of the Greek goddess Hygieia. Police say the suspects were already in talks with a potential buyer overseas.

A year before that, Greece claimed two stolen ancient Greek antiquities that surfaced in London and were put up for sale at the Frieze Masters gallery. The claim concerned two marble grave vessels that were made in Attica workshops in the 4th century BC. The two vases, which were once in the possession of a Switzerland-based Sicilian dealer, went on sale at the prestigious Frieze Masters art fair in Regent’s Park, London.

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