In what is being called the ‘robbery of the century’, a priceless 12th-century manuscript has been stolen from the Santiago de Compostela. The Codex Calixtinus, which contains a kind of travel guide to the famous pilgrimage way of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, was found missing from the cathedral’s archives on Tuesday. It is believed that the manuscript may have been removed on Sunday, but the theft went unnoticed for days.
On Tuesday afternoon an archivist found the safe which held the Codex unlocked (with the key still in the locking mechanism) and the manuscript missing. Church staff spent hours looking for the manuscript before calling in the local police at 10pm that evening. Dozens of police experts have since been examining the cathedral for any evidence and reviewing the video from five security cameras. Unfortunately, none of the video cameras was trained onto the area where the safe was kept.
During a press conference held today, José María Díaz, Dean of the Cathedral, said only himself and two other people had access to the safe. He added that none of the other documents and objects kept in the safe were removed.
Speculation about the thief/theives includes the possibility the organized crime was involved. Because the manuscript is so well-known, it will be impossible for it to be sold on the open market. This leads to the possibility that the theft was arranged for a particular buyer. The manuscript might also be used like a type of currency, to be traded among organized crime figures, similar to expensive art. “We do not know if it’s been stolen by a collector or a band of professionals. What we can do is offer our full cooperation to the police,” the Dean said.
The Codex Calixtinus comprised five books and two appendices, and was created on the orders of Pope Callixtus II (1119-1124). The work provides advice for pilgrims following the Way of St. James to his shrine in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. It also includes sermons, reports of miracles and liturgical texts associated with Saint James, and polyphonic musical pìeces.
“This piece is irreplaceable and priceless,” said Juan Manuel Díaz de Bustamante, a medieval historian, told El Pais. “It is not the first Codex Calixtinus, but it is the oldest and best conserved one.”
“The best thing that could happen is that the person who now has the book is aware of the priceless value of this codex, because then we can be sure that it won’t be mistreated”, a high-ranking police officer said.