After receiving an offer from a former employee to regain missing letters signed by Michelangelo for a price, the Vatican has said that it is not biting 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 Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a March 8 statement to journalists.
Fr. Lombardi’s comments referred to the 1997 theft of the letters, which he said was at that time reported to the cardinal-president of the Fabbrica and archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Virgilio Noe, by the then-archivist Sister Teresa Todaro.
The spokesman revealed that the current president of the Fabbrica, 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 “Il Messaggero” reports that the man who approached Cardinal Comastri was a former employee of the Fabbrica. He apparently had the letters verified by an antique dealer, and told the cardinal he could help the Vatican reacquire them for a price of 100,000-200,000 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. The Fabbrica 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 their 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.