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Vatican held to ransom over stolen Michelangelo documents

on Sonntag, 08 März 2015. Posted in General Autograph News

By Harriet Alexander

In popular imagination the Vatican is, away from the hallowed halls, a place of dark corridors, skulduggery and shady secrets.

On Sunday the Pope’s press secretary appeared to give weight to the Hollywood image, with the remarkable announcement that the Vatican had received a ransom demand for the return of two rare documents written by Renaissance master Michelangelo, which were stolen from its archives nearly 20 years ago.

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St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican city  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Father Federico Lombardi said a cardinal in charge of St Peter’s Basilica had been contacted recently by a person who offered to get the documents back for what Father Lombardi called “a certain price”.

Italian newspaper Il Messaggero said the person, described as a former Vatican employee, had asked for €100,000.

Father Lombardi said the cardinal “naturally refused, because these are stolen documents”.

The theft of the two documents had not been made public before Sunday.

One of the documents is a letter including the signature of Michelangelo, who painted the Sistine Chapel and sculpted statues such as David and the Pieta. Michelangelo lived from 1475 to 1564.

The second document was not described, although both were taken from the archives of the Vatican department that looks after the upkeep of the basilica, known as the Fabbrica di San Pietro. The archives contain numerous documents concerning the history, design and construction of the largest church in Christendom.

Father Lombardi added that Vatican police were now investigating the case together with their Italian counterparts.

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