July 9, 2012

The case of the pilfered Codex Calixtinus


The Codex Calixtinus, stolen last year, found.

A priceless 12th-century illuminated manuscript, the Codex Calixtinus, considered one of Spain’s most important cultural and religious treasures, which was stolen a year ago from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, was found in a handyman’s garage, according to this report in the UK Guardian.

The stolen text was found not far from the cathedral in the north-western Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela in a nearby garage after police arrested a handyman — fired after 25 years working at the cathedral — along with three others.

According to the Guardian:

The Codex Calixtinus, a 12th-century collection of sermons and liturgical passages, vanished last July from a safe deposit box in the cathedral, which marks the end of an ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago.

Police said they had found the elaborately illustrated manuscript – a treasured part of Spain’s cultural and religious heritage – in a garage near the Galician town.

The cathedral is the reputed burial place of St James the Greater, one of Jesus’s 12 apostles, who, tradition has it, went to Spain to preach Christianity.

The codex tells the story of how the apostle’s remains were transferred to Santiago de Compostela and details the various routes to the town – effectively a guide for early pilgrims.

The main suspect was a freelance handyman and electrician for 25 years. He was fired by the Church after faking a work contract to make it look like he had a permanent job, and claimed he was owed €40,000 for unfair dismissal.

In a dawn raid on the handyman’s property the police found “at least €1.2m (£950,000), eight copies of the codex and other ancient books that had also been stolen from the cathedral,” according to the Guardian. “Officers also found documents and correspondence related to senior church figures and keys to various outbuildings. The cathedral’s book of hours, a popular type of devotional book in the Middle Ages, was also recovered.”

Police also arrested the handyman’s wife, son, and another woman, in connection with the theft.


Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.