The Vatican has launched a criminal investigation into the theft of stolen priceless documents, one of which was a completely handwritten letter by renaissance artist Michelangelo. Though the alleged current owner of the document offered to return the documents for “a certain price,” Vatican officials have snubbed the “offer.”
In a development eerily reminiscent of a Dan Brown mystery novel, the Vatican confirmed a report that it has indeed received a ransom demand for the return of two stolen letters written by the renaissance master Michelangelo. Astonishingly, it’s the first time the theft has been made public. A spokesman further confirmed that the Vatican has flatly refused to pay and instead decided to proceed with a full-blown investigation to trace the missing documents and return them to the archives from where they were earlier allegedly stolen.
The theft was carefully concealed by the Holy See for almost two decades before it was boldly made public by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. The newspaper reported that the letter was among several that went missing from Vatican archives in 1997. Apparently, a former Vatican employee, without confirming if he is indeed in the possession of the documents, demanded a ransom of €100,000 ($108,590) for the letter.
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Despite the Vatican flatly refusing to pay the ransom, the document surely is worthy of such a lofty amount. The letter, seen by very few people in the Vatican itself, is one of the extremely few, completely handwritten letters by world famous artist Michelangelo. The great renaissance artist was well known to dictate letters and documents to his assistants, writing only his signature at the end. However, this letter is not only penned by the great artist, inventor, and philosopher, but also signed by him.
Michelangelo, who lived from 1475 to 1564, helped envision and design the basilica, which unfortunately was only completed much later in 1626. However, Michelangelo is world renowned for painting the ceiling and the altar wall of the adjoining Sistine Chapel.
The request for money was made to the cardinal in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica. But it was immediately refused, confirmed Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. The Vatican “naturally refused because these are stolen documents,” said Lombardi. The documents were stolen from the archive of the department responsible for the upkeep of St. Peter’s. The police are currently investigating how the documents could have left the highly-secure archives.
The cardinal further added that the Vatican was aware of the theft for almost 20 years, after a nun who worked in the Vatican archives informed officials of the missing documents way back in 1997. However, Lombardi stopped short of explaining why the Vatican had not made the theft public before. A nationwide search, which has only recently been deployed, may soon unearth the whereabouts of the missing Michelangelo letters.
[Image Credit | Vatican Secret Archives and VdH Books via CNS]