Man gets 10 years for stealing priceless manuscript in Spain

18th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish court sentenced a man on Wednesday to 10 years in prison for crimes including the theft of a priceless medieval document considered the first guidebook to Spain's Saint James pilgrimage trail.

Police recovered the unique 12th-century manuscript in July 2012, a year after it was found to have gone missing from a safe in the famous cathedral of the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela.

Judges in a court in the nearby city of La Coruna said in a written ruling that they "consider it proven" that an electrician who worked for years at the cathedral, Manuel Fernandez Castineiras, stole the manuscript.

They also sentenced him for the theft of money and other documents, and for money-laundering, the ruling said. Fernandez's wife was also sentenced to six months on the latter charge.

The court ordered them each to pay a fine of 268,000 euros (304,000 dollars).

The court found that Fernandez took the manuscript, dubbed the Codex Calixtinus, and hid it among newspapers in a bag in his garage, where police found it in a "well preserved" state.

A security video shown at the trial appeared to show him in a cathedral study stuffing money into the pockets of his pants.

The richly-decorated Codex is considered one of the Western world's first travel guide books.

Among other things it details the route by which the body of Saint James, Spain's patron saint, was taken from Jerusalem to Santiago after his death.

That route became known as "the Way of Saint James". It still draws travellers from around the world to the city and its Catholic cathedral, where the apostle's remains are said to be entombed.

The manuscript is thought to have been commissioned by Pope Callixtus II, who encouraged such pilgrimages.

The 225-page illuminated manuscript contains a collection of texts including sermons, homilies to Saint James and practical travel advice to pilgrims.

© 2015 AFP

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