Spanish police recover priceless 12th century manuscript

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Spanish police have recovered a priceless 12th-century guide to Spain's Way of Saint James pilgrimage and arrested four people over its theft, officials said.

Officers found the unique medieval document, known as the Codex Calixtinus, in a garage near Spain's holiest city Santiago de Compostela, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

"The find occurred after the arrest yesterday afternoon of four people linked to its disappearance a year ago," the ministry said.

The Codex, one of Spain's greatest cultural treasures, was stolen on July 5, 2011 from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it was kept in a secure archive.

Officials said at the time there was no sign of a break-in in the 12th century cathedral, which holds the purported remains of Saint James and has been the destination for pilgrims over the centuries.

Considered one of the Western world's first "guidebooks", the Codex was only shown to the public on special occasions such as Pope Benedict XVI's visit in 2010 to the northwestern Spanish city.

Spanish newspapers reported that those arrested included an electrician who previously worked at the cathedral and his wife and son, along with the son's girlfriend.

Police also reportedly seized 1.2 million euros ($1.5 million) and other treasures from the cathedral.

The Codex consists of 225 pages of parchment inscribed with texts about Saint James and the route of the pilgrimage made in his honor.

The manuscript was named after Pope Calixto II, who promoted the tradition of the pilgrimage in the early 12th century.

It includes the story of how the body of Saint James was supposedly transported from Judea on a raft without oars or sails to Spain.

After the theft was discovered last year, the cathedral's dean, Jose Maria Diaz, told reporters that only three people were supposed to have access to the safe -- himself and two archivists.

"The person who took it knew what they were doing and how to reach it," Diaz said at the time.

A replica is enclosed in a glass case and displayed to tourists inside the cathedral located in the cobblestone old quarter of the city.

Local daily El Correo Gallego called it "the theft of the century".

The city became a centre of Church power after the purported discovery in the eighth century of the remains of Saint James, later to be known as the Slayer of the Moors.

It became a symbol to rally Christian Spain, which was at the time pinned down by the Muslim Moors to the northern strip of the Iberian peninsula.

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