Codex Calixtinus contrectatione celeriter clandestineque contrectatoribus correptus!

I sense a thriller block-buster movie.  Perhaps I could write the screenplay to include the Secret Vatican Vampire Assassin Squad.

Codex Calixtinus manuscript stolen from Santiago de Compostela

Priceless 12-century manuscript, which contains Europe’s first travel guide, went missing from a safe in Spanish cathedral
Giles Tremlett in Madrid, Thursday 7 July 2011 14.44 BST
A priceless 12th-century illustrated manuscript containing what has been described as Europe’s first travel guide has been stolen from the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

The Codex Calixtinus, which was kept in a safe at the cathedral’s archives, is thought to have been stolen by professional thieves on Sunday afternoon.  [Perhaps there is some secret writing on the back of one of the leaves leading to a treasure under the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan.]

Archivists did not notice its disappearance, however, until Tuesday, when the cathedral’s dean was told it was missing.

The local Correo Gallego newspaper reported that distraught cathedral staff spent hours searching for the manuscript before contacting police late that night.

“Although security systems have been improved considerably it is true to say that they are not of the kind one might find in a bank or a well-protected jewellers,” the newspaper reported.

Only five security cameras were used to watch the archive area, according to the newspaper, and none were pointing directly at the safe where the priceless manuscript was stored[But if the thief was really really fast?]

Police reportedly believe that a black market dealer in antique manuscripts may have commissioned the robbery.

The codex was rarely removed from its safe, with researchers wishing to study it generally being handed a copy kept at the same archive.

The 225 parchment pages include a guide to the pilgrimage routes to Santiago, apparently written by a French friar, Aimeric Picaud.

They also tell the story of how St James the Apostle’s body was supposedly transported from Judea on a raft without oars or sails, which swiftly crossed the Mediterranean and travelled north through the Atlantic before grounding in north-western Spain. From there it was supposedly dragged inland by two oxen, and the body was buried in a forest.

It was only eight centuries later, however, that locals began to claim the tomb of St James could be found there. Pilgrims eventually began to travel to the site, and an 11th-century pope declared that on certain years pilgrims could obtain plenary indulgence for their sins and so avoid purgatory.

The manuscript, apparently commissioned by Pope Calixtus II, helped popularise a pilgrimage that still attracts tens of thousands of people every year.

The author claimed pilgrims travelled from as far away as Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Jerusalem and Asia seeking “mortification of the body, increase of virtue, forgiveness of sins … and the protection of the Heavens”.

His guidebook also included warnings against eating some local fish which would cause you to “die soon afterwards or fall ill”.

Then in other news today…

From CNA:

Officials find no lapse in security following disappearance of Calixtinus Codex

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Jul 11, 2011 / 02:01 pm (CNA/Europa Press).- Officials in Spain “have not found any anomalies” in the security at the Cathedral of Santiago after the Calixtinus Codex was stolen July 5.  [Someone on the inside then?  Or is a job for the SVVAS?]

Sources from the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela said security measures were working “normally,” reported Europa Press.

The sources also confirmed statements made by the dean of the cathedral, Jose Maria Diaz, that there was no sign of forced entry into the room where the codex is typically kept. However, it is not known whether the key was left in the safe that held the historic document.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. APX says:

    This really does sound like an inside job. Even the cheapest two-bit alarms will protect somewhat (unless the phone lines get cut and there’s no cellular back-up, or the police have a no response w/o confirmation policy from too many false alarms). Surely to goodness if the cheapest home alarm systems will protect, then whatever set-up they have, regardless of how out-dated it is, should have worked.

    Sounds like a job for Cst. Benton Fraser, RCMP and his wolf, Diefenbaker.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Speaking as a former investigator, my instincts tell me that this will prove to be an Inside Job. It bears all the hallmarks. If there’s a dealer involved, he bribed an archives employee, but an employee may have approached a dealer with the manuscript after the fact.

    Fortunately these crimes quickly come unraveled as other employees tell all they know in order to avoid suspicion. As we used to say, the police have investigated far more crimes than the average thief has committed, and thieves are usually nowhere near as smart as they think they are. This is a high profile high dollar theft and all police resources will be brought to bear (budget and time constraints are usually why many thefts go unsolved – they are really uninvestigated, but that’s another story).

  3. Dennis Martin says:

    It would be impossible to sell the codex intact, I would think. Any dealer in antique books or manuscripts should recognize it. More likely, I suppose, they’d hold it for ransom?

    On the other hand, if the thieves took it apart and sold individual pages, it’s possibly the individual illuminations might not be recognized immediately. That would be a horrible tragedy. I have a published edition I bought at Vezelay forty years ago–it’s got some really humorous passages as it describe the various lands one passes through on the way to St. James.

  4. Tina in Ashburn says:

    travel guide? really, its about time these thieves invested in their OWN GPS.

  5. Seraphic Spouse says:

    A horrible, heart-breaking shame. I was going to say something nasty about unprincipled rich collectors, but in light of the possibility the illustrations will indeed be snipped out and sold separately, I am praying its been sold to a single rich collector!

  6. Traductora says:

    Theft of manuscripts and historic documents is a regular occurrence in Spain, because the country is absolutely stuffed with them and security is sometimes not what it should be. Many of them are in monasteries, cathedral treasuries, and other places that are not really formal archives and thus have somewhat lax procedures.

    A number of manuscripts were lost from monasteries near Barcelona a few years ago…simply smuggled out by trusted “researchers” who had consulted them and managed to confuse the monks when checking them back in. It doesn’t sound as if anyone had been consulting the Codex, but there is the casual mention that they weren’t sure if the key hadn’t been left in the door, so possibly a visitor to the place merely availed himself of this opportunity.

  7. I’d say we should ask for the intercession of Santiago Matamoros and St. Anthony of Padua. (And poor Pope Callistus II also; he’s kinda concerned.)

  8. benedetta says:

    OK. I give up. It was me. You got me. I just thought some texts could benefit from a little liberation…

  9. Rosevean says:

    Aha! So there IS a Secret Vatican Vampire Assassin Squad… I knew it!

Comments are closed.