VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A top Vatican official received a ransom demand for the return of Renaissance-era documents by the artist Michelangelo.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, “received a proposal to recover such documents at a certain price,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
“Naturally he refused as it concerned stolen documents,” the spokesman said in a written statement March 8.
Michelangelo, best known for his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, had dedicated nearly the last two decades of his life, 1546-1564, to being the head architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, whose construction began in 1506 and was completed in 1620.
More than 10,000 pieces of parchment, documents, slips and scraps of paper connected with the planning, design and building of the basilica are kept in the archives of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for physical care and maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Michelangelo, Donato Bramante, Raphael, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini’s surviving handwritten notes, instructions, reports and requests are all housed in the archives.
The Italian newspaper, Il Messaggero, reported that Cardinal Comastri, who is also the Fabbrica’s president, recently received an unexpected visit from a former employee of the Fabbrica. The unnamed visitor reportedly informed the cardinal that a letter written by Michelangelo was missing from the archives and the visitor knew where it was, adding that it would cost about 100,000 euros ($108,600) to proceed.
Father Lombardi said that in 1997 the Fabbrica’s head archivist had reported two documents were missing: a letter written by Michelangelo and a document with his signature.
The spokesman said the Vatican police were in contact with the Italian police to investigate further.
Help keep Catholic media free, support CatholicPhilly.com
You may have noticed “pay walls” greeting you when you visit the websites of newspapers and magazines, both large and small. These mechanisms allow you to read a few articles for free before you’ve got to pay an annual fee if you want to see more.
You won’t find a pay wall on CatholicPhilly.com because we’re more than a news organization. We’re informing, inspiring and forming readers in the Catholic faith every day through the news, features and commentaries that we post on this site and share across social media.
It costs money to provide high-quality coverage of the local Catholic communities we primarily serve, while also distributing national and world news of interest to Catholics, plus the orthodox teachings of the Catholic faith.
Help us in this mission by making a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: