Cathedral thief gets 10 years for stealing 12th-century manuscript

Former electrician at Santiago pilgrimage site also had €1.7m in cash stashed at home

Video: Santiago cathedral security camera footage obtained by EL PAÍS showing how Fernández Castiñeiras operated.
Santiago de Compostela - 18 feb 2015 - 18:02 UTC

The handyman who stole a priceless medieval volume known as the Codex Calixtinus from Santiago de Compostela cathedral was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday.

Manuel Fernández Castiñeiras, a former electrician at the cathedral, was found guilty of theft and money laundering after the police also found €1.7 million in cash on his property.

His wife received a six-month conviction and their son was acquitted of all charges in connection with the theft of the manuscript in July 2011.

Fernández Castiñeiras, who worked at the cathedral for 25 years, is believed to have slowly stolen the cash from the church over several years in revenge against the former dean, José María Díaz, and for not being giving a fixed work contract.

Besides the codex and the cash, police found 10 high-quality facsimiles of the book worth over €3,000 each. House searches at several of the defendant’s properties also yielded key documents detailing cathedral security measures, accounting books and thousands of letters and other written material that had disappeared from church officials’ locked offices.

In December 2012, dean José María Díaz resigned from his post for “personal reasons” soon after the scandal broke.

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The theft and recovery prompted a public debate over the need to improve security measures at a religious site that is the final destination of those who trek the popular Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across northern Spain.

Galician authorities have proposed that the 12th-century Codex Calixtinus, considered a traveler’s guidebook to the Camino, should be placed on display rather than hidden away inside the depths of the cathedral.