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Codex Calixtinus stolen from Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

PUBLISHED: July 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm  •  LAST EDITED: July 16, 2011 at 10:51 am
National News  •  6 Comments

Codex Calixtinus stolen from Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

• PRICELESS: The 12th-century manuscript wasn't insured

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THE Codex Calixtinus, a priceless 12th century illuminated manuscript, has vanished from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It could become one of the most important robberies of Spanish historical and artistic heritage.

The disappearance of the codex, which was kept in a safe at the cathedral, was discovered on Tuesday afternoon, although it is believed the theft took place last week.

The cathedral’s dean, Jose Maria Diaz, said he called police after carrying out a “very detailed search” with the archivist for the illuminated manuscript, which contains a collection of texts including sermons, homilies to Saint James, Spain’s patron saint, and practical travel advice to pilgrims.

The dean said there was no sign of a break-in and only three people had access to the safe – himself and two archivists.

In recent years, security measures had been improved to protect the codex. An alarm and fire-prevention system was installed, as well as five security cameras.

As well as a major source of historical information, the codex is considered one of the first guidebooks to the Way of St James pilgrimage, and includes practical advice for pilgrims, descriptions of the route and of the local customs, and a set of polyphonic musical pieces.

The 225 page book, thought to date from around 1150, was only brought out on special occasions such as Pope Benedict XVI’s visit last November or during a recent meeting with Spanish Culture Ministry officials.

It is not the first Codex Calixtinus, but it is the best conserved one.

Experts are worried about the state of the historical document. A change in light and humidity conditions, or inadequate handling might alter the colour-rich illustrations and cause the pages to come loose.

The cathedral’s dean said the manuscript was not insured. In 1990 an insurance company demanded one billion pesetas, the equivalent of six million euros, to insure the document, he added.

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Reader Comments »


July 8th, 2011 11:47 am

If this codex is not the first, how can it be the oldest??

Web Manager

July 8th, 2011 12:52 pm

Well spotted, Ray. Article has now been updated.

Jay Dillon

July 8th, 2011 4:39 pm

Thank you for publicizing this.

One billion pesetas must have been the *valuation* in 1990, not the annual premium. Remember, Codex Leicester was only worth 31m USD at the time (1994).

Susanna Lundgren

February 7th, 2012 9:20 am

Is there an update on this news story regarding theft of the Codex Calixtinus? A disturbing and disheartening event for a devoted pilgrim/ scholar who visited Santiago hardly more than a month before. How could this happen, and anyway, what was the point? The thief could never hope to sell it on the international market.

Susanna Lundgren

March 17th, 2012 10:55 pm

Please advise of any recent developments in the search for the Codex Calixtinus. Cathedral archivist Diaz resigned his post and Spanish police speculate a collector may have commissioned an insider to steal the Codex and spirit it out of Spain. Is that it? No leads? Have they just given up the search?

Susanna Lundgren

October 2nd, 2012 10:01 am

Hooray, just happened to check on possible updates to the case; delighted to get the news belatedly of safe recovery of the Codex last July 4th, virtually a year to the day since the theft – along with over a million euros, 8 copies of the Codex and other rare books stolen from the archives. Lessons learned? Watch out how you fire employees, keep an eye on their subsequent activities, and make better use of your surveillance and security systems! At least the Codex was not harmed and did not leave Spain. I am a happy pilgrim!

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