The Monuments Men

Back to The Monuments Men | Downey, Lt. Glanville

Glanville Downey ( 1908-1991 )

Archaeologist, librarian, and expert on ancient Byzantium, Robert Emory Glanville Downey was born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 14, 1908. Growing up in Long Island, New York, he attended a private Episcopal school, where his biblical studies inspired a fascination with the ancient world. He studied Classics at Princeton University, completing a Bachelor’s degree in 1931 followed by a Ph.D. in 1934. In the early 1930s he visited Antioch, the chief center of early Christianity during Roman times, as part of excavations sponsored by Princeton. Downey also spent a year as an assistant at the Gennadius Library at The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in Athens, Greece. From 1935 to 1940 he returned to Princeton as a curator of the university’s Epigraphical Museum and a research fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study. During this time, he used mosaics unearthed during excavations at Antioch to reexamine the political climate of the Later Roman Empire.

In 1940, Downey became Librarian at the School of Fine Arts at Yale University. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in April 1942 and was soon transferred to the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Division. He was recommended for service with the MFAA by Monuments Man Lt. Col. Theodore Sizer, his colleague from Yale. In October 1943, Downey was sent to the North African Theater, where he was assigned to Sicily alongside Sizer and three other Monuments Men, Maj. Bancel LaFarge, Lt. Col. Norman Newton, and Maj. Edward Croft-Murray. Together, the Monuments Men in Sicily inspected all cultural monuments, libraries, and archives and submitted recommendations for emergency first aid. When the Headquarters of the MFAA was relocated to Naples in February 1944, Downey was transferred to the American School Center in Shrivenham, England, an Officers Candidate School of the European Civil Affairs Division (ECAD). Within a few months, he resumed his monuments work in the field, but grew very sick and was hospitalized by September. He returned to the United States in 1945.

Downey resumed his career as a librarian, accepting positions at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks and Indiana University. Although his speech was crippled by a severe stutter, Downey was a visiting lecturer at universities and institutions across the United States, including Kenyon College, Princeton University, the Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Virginia Theological Seminary. His many publications include Description of the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople (1957), The Claim of Antioch to Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction over Cyprus (1958), Constantinople in the Age of Justinian (1960), Aristotle, Dean of Early Science (1962), and The Late Roman Empire (1969).

Glanville Downey died in Sacramento, California on December 18, 1991.