Three U.S. Museums Accused of Hiding Stolen Stain Glass Windows from Rouen Cathedral

A complaint was filed by the Parisian lumière sur le patrimoine association against three American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for hiding the theft of stain glass windows from the Rouen Cathedral in December 2023, Ouest-France reports.

According to written testimony, archaeologist and art historian Jean Lafond (who died in 1975) had inventoried a series of stain glass windows at the Rouen Cathedral in 1911 that, it was later discovered in 1931, were no longer there. Five of these six windows were allegedly sold on the Parisian art market before anyone learned of their disappearance.

The window panels would have depicted the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus”, a famous legend in which Christian soldiers fell asleep in a cave near Ephesus and wake up nearly 200 years later, with the sixth window coming from one of the chapels in the nave.

The pieces were reportedly purchased by American collectors before they landed in the institutional collections of the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, the Worcester Museum in Massachusetts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The president of the association Philippe Machicote is fighting to have these artworks returned to the state. In September 2023, Machicote tried to hold Sotheby’s accountable for having supposedly sold two of stain glass windows from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1862, but the Paris prosecutor’s office did not recognize the appeal.

The prosecutor’s office in Rouen has two months remaining to make a decision on the Rouen Cathedral’s stain glass windows.





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