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Experts are worried about the state of the historical document.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.