Vatican Rejects Ransom Demand for Stolen Michelangelo Letters
The letters were stolen in 1997 by a former employee of the Fabbrica, which oversees all aspects of the basilica, including internal and external maintenance.
VATICAN CITY — After receiving an offer of ransom from a former employee to regain stolen letters signed by Michelangelo, the Vatican has said that it is not taking the bait, but is cooperating with police.
“Years ago, certain documents by Michelangelo (one written by him, another with his signature) were found to be missing from the Archives of the Fabbrica of St. Peter’s,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a March 8 statement to journalists.
Father Lombardi’s comments referred to the 1997 theft of the letters, which at that time were reported to the cardinal-president of the Fabbrica and archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Virgilio Noe, by then-archivist Sister Teresa Todaro.
The spokesman revealed that the current president, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, has recently “received a proposal to buy those documents back for a certain price.”
“Of course he refused, since the documents were stolen. The Vatican Gendarmerie is in contact with the competent authorities of the Italian police for the appropriate investigations.”
The Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero reported that the man who approached Cardinal Comastri was a former employee. He apparently had the letters verified by an antiques dealer and told the cardinal he could help the Vatican reacquire them for a price of 100,000 euro to 200,000 euro.
Meaning the “fabric” of St. Peter’s, the Fabbrica was founded in 1523 by Pope Clement VII as a committee to oversee the construction of the new basilica and maintain it. It oversees all aspects of the basilica, including internal and external maintenance, and is in charge of the preservation and decoration of the building.
Among the artifacts in the archives are documents, letters, scrolls, drawings and paintings. The committee is headed by the cardinal who serves as the archpriest for St. Peter’s Basilica.