Mosaics returned after a half century
Ömer Erbil ISTANBUL / RadikalAn American tourist has returned mosaic pieces she originally took from the Hagia Sophia in 1956.
Eliza B. Chrystie gave the mosaic pieces to Adil Brisen, a jewelry store owner at the site, saying she could not bear to return the mosaics to authorities on her own. Birsen brought the 11 gold mosaics to Hagia Sophia authorities.
An official report that was released afterwards said Chrystie had returned five stone and six glass pieces of mosaics due to her feelings of guilt.
Museum Manager Hayrullah Cengiz said the pieces were very valuable. “We also hope the Louvre Museum will return the ceramics it took from us.”
Chrystie visited Turkey in 1956 with her husband. When she visited the Hagia Sophia, there was an ongoing restoration project and workers in the restoration area gave Chrystie the valuable mosaic pieces. She eventually took the mosaics back to her home in the United States, preserving them.
As time passed, however, she developed a growing sense of guilt for retaining the mosaics. Eventually, she decided to bring the pieces back; in the end, she and her sister returned to Turkey after 55 years to return the mosaics.
“Two old ladies came to the store,” Birsen said. “They tried to bargain on a necklace but said the price was so high, so they left.”
A few days later, Chrystie returned to the store. “She wanted to lower the price and then said she wanted help on a different issue. That’s when she brought the mosaic pieces here.”
Birsen said Chrystie told him that the mosaics did not belong to her and that she wanted to return them to where they belonged.
Chrystie asked Birsen to give the pieces back to the museum, saying she did not want to give them herself because she was ashamed. Birsen agreed and took the mosaics back to the museum.
Experts have confirmed that the pieces are actually from the Hagia Sophia.