Rare Spanish codex found in garage after handyman arrested

MADRID Wed Jul 4, 2012 10:49pm IST

MADRID (Reuters) - A medieval text stolen from the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in northwest Spain last year was found in a nearby garage on Wednesday, after police arrested a handyman - fired after 25 years at the cathedral - and three members of his family.

The Codex Calixtinus, a 12th century collection of sermons and liturgical passages, vanished last July from a safe deposit box in the cathedral, the end of the ancient pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago.

Police said they had found the elaborately illustrated manuscript, a treasured part of Spain's cultural and religious heritage, in a garage near the Galician town.

The cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Greater, one of Jesus's twelve apostles who, according to tradition, went to Spain to preach Christianity.

The Codex tells the story of how the apostle's remains were transferred to Santiago de Compostela and details the various routes to the town - effectively a guide for early pilgrims.

Earlier dawn raids on properties connected to the detained former church handyman, his wife, son and another woman had led police to the discovery of at least 1.2 million euros, eight copies of the Codex and other ancient books that had also been stolen from the cathedral.

Officers also found documents and correspondence related to senior church figures and keys to various outbuildings. The cathedral's book of hours, a popular type of devotional book in the Middle Ages, was also recovered.

The main suspect, whom police have not named, is a man who was sacked after working for the cathedral as a freelance handyman and electrician for more than 25 years, police said in a statement.

He was made redundant after faking a work contract to make it look like he had permanent job, and claimed he was owed 40,000 euros for unfair dismissal, the police said.

(Reporting by Teresa Larraz Mora and Teresa Medrano; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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