July 4, 2012 / 4:31 PM / 5 years ago

Four held over Spanish medieval manuscript theft

MADRID (Reuters) - A former church caretaker, his wife, son and another woman have been arrested in connection with last year's disappearance of a priceless medieval text from the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in northwest Spain, police said on Wednesday.

The Codex Calixtinus, a 12th century collection of sermons and liturgical passages, vanished from a safe deposit box in the cathedral, the endpoint of the ancient pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago.

The elaborately illustrated manuscript, considered an important part of Spain's cultural and religious heritage, has yet to be found, though the police say they are close.

"I think we're heading in the right direction to crack the case ... The main objective is to find the Codex," Spanish police chief Ignacio Cosido told national radio.

The key suspect is a man who was sacked after working for the cathedral as a caretaker, electrician and odd job man for more than 25 years, police said in a statement.

The force did not name the man but said his wife, son and another woman linked to the family were also detained.

Police said they had also recovered at least 1.2 million euros ($1.5 million), eight copies of the Codex and other ancient books that had also disappeared from the cathedral, during searches of garages, houses and storage rooms.

Officers also found documents and correspondence related to senior church figures and keys to various outbuildings.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Greater, one of Jesus Christ's twelve apostles who, according to church tradition, arrived in Spain to preach Christianity.

Reporting by Teresa Larraz Mora, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Paul Day and Andrew Heavens

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