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Protesters want Getty to return pages from sacred Armenian book

Armenian church officials allege that the Getty Museum illegally bought pages of the Zeyt'un Gospels, a manuscript that dates back to 1256. The Getty says it's confident it holds title to the work.

November 20, 2011|By Brittany Levine

About 30 protesters called on the Getty Museum to return seven ornate pages taken from a sacred medieval Armenian book considered to be a national treasure.

The protesters gathered outside the gates of the museum Saturday, holding signs that read "Shame on Getty" and "Our history is not for sale." Armenian church officials are trying to secure the pages, which they say were illegally obtained by the museum nearly two decades ago.

The La Crescenta-based Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America filed a $105-million lawsuit against the J. Paul Getty Trust in June 2010 alleging that the museum illegally bought seven pages ripped from the Zeyt'un Gospels, a sacred manuscript that dates back to the year 1256.

The Getty bought the pages in 1994 from a private collection for $950,000. The church says the previous owner was the heir of the man who allegedly stole the pages in 1916 when the Turks expelled Armenians from an area of the Ottoman Empire that is now part of Turkey.

Getty spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said the Getty is confident it holds title to the work.

brittany.levine@latimes.com

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