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Codex Calixtinus stolen…easily

Whoops! The folks at the stunningly beautiful Spanish cathedral in Santiago de Compostela have lost a priceless 12th century manuscript called Codex Calixtinus. Last week, the rare document was stolen from the cathedral’s safe. The thief didn’t have to work to hard for his or her crime as they had the keys to the safe and left them hanging in the lock. Time magazine has the full story.

The manuscript is so rare that it will be impossible to resell on the black market, so it was a rather pointless theft.

Written in the mid-1100s under the auspices of Pope Calixtus II, the Codex is about the apostle St. James, whose remains are believed to have miraculously washed up on the coast of northwestern Spain. The town that houses his tomb, which became known as Santiago de Compostela (Santiago means “St. James” in Spanish), was transformed in the Middle Ages into a major pilgrimage site — the third most important, after Jerusalem and Rome — for Christians from all over Europe. Indeed, book five of the Codex is a sort of a Michelin guide to Santiago, helpfully instructing pilgrims on the best routes to take and the poisonous rivers to avoid. “It is one of the most important texts of the Middle Ages and of incalculable value,” says Jesus Tanco, a St. James expert at the University of Navarra.

Years ago, I visited this corner of Spain and went to Santiago de Compostela. The cathedral is truly memorable.

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Richard Davies

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