Frits Holm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Frits V. Holm arriving to the US (1908). Picture from the New York Times full-page report on his arrival to the US with the replica of the Nestorian Stele
The Nestorian Stele, on its tortoise pedestal, photographed by Frits Holm shortly before it was moved to the Beilin Museum, and out of his reach

Frits Vilhelm Holm[1] (ca. 1881[2] – May 1930) was a Danish scholar and adventurer. His books usually gave his name as simply Frits Holm or Frits V. Holm, while US newspapers of the time usually (mis)spelled his name as Fritz von Holm, sometimes claiming that he was a member of the European nobility.[1]

Holm is best known for his attempt, in 1907, to "obtain" the famous Nestorian Stele - an ancient Christian monument of Xi'an, in Northwestern China, and sell it to a Western museum. Alerted to his activities (nicknamed by later writers the "Holm-Nestorian expedition to Xi'an"), the local authorities moved the monument from its outdoor location on the western outskirts of the city, and into the Stele Forest museum. In order not to leave China empty-handed, the disappointed Holm had an exact copy of the stele made for him in Xi'an.[1] He had the replica stele taken by cart to the Yellow River, then by small boat down the (not very navigable) Yellow River to the nearest train station at Zhengzhou, and then by train to the major Yangtze River port of Hankou (now in Wuhan).[2]

Instead of London's British Museum, as he supposedly originally intended, Holm had the replica stele shipped to New York, planning to sell it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum's director Caspar Purdon Clarke, however, was less than enthusiastic about purchasing "so large a stone ... of no artistic value". Nonetheless, the replica stele was exhibited in the museum ("on loan" from Mr. Holm) for about 10 years. [1] Eventually, in 1917, Mr. George Leary, a wealthy New Yorker, purchased the replica stele and sent it to Rome, as a gift to the Pope.[3]

On October 9, 1919, Holm married Marguerite MacDonough Green in New York. She was the only child of the late Warren L. Green, the president of the American Bank Note Company.[4]

Holm died in May 1930 from pneumonia.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Keevak 2008, pp. 117–121. Holm's original report can be found in Carus, Wylie & Holm 1909, and also in more popular form in Holm 2001
  2. ^ a b "The Nestorian Stone's Message of Centuries; More Than a Thousand Years Old These Inscriptions, in Replica at the Metropolitan Museum, Tell of Early Christianity in China", The New York Times, July 12, 1908, Sunday. Section: Magazine Section, Page SM6. (In this article he is referred to as "26-year-old")
  3. ^ NEW CAPTAIN ON ST. LOUIS.; Hartley, Young American Line Commander, Praised for Handling Ship. The New York Times, January 29, 1917
  4. ^ Miss Green Wed to Dr. Frits Holm. The New York Times, October 10, 1919
  5. ^ FV HOLM DEAD; DANISH EXPLORER; Succumbs to Pneumonia--... New York Times - Mar 10, 1930


  • Carus, Paul; Wylie, Alexander; Holm, Frits (1909), The Nestorian Monument: An Ancient Record of Christianity in China, with Special Reference to the expedition of Frits V. Holm..., The Open court publishing company
  • Holm, Frits (2001), My Nestorian Adventure in China: A Popular Account of the Holm-Nestorian Expedition to Sian-Fu and Its Results, Volume 6 of Georgias reprint series, Gorgias Press LLC, ISBN 0-9713097-6-0. Originally published by: Hutchinson & Co, London, 1924.
  • Keevak, Michael (2008), The Story of a Stele: China's Nestorian Monument and Its Reception in the West, 1625-1916, ISBN 962-209-895-9