NPR logo

Vatican Says Ransom Sought For Missing Michelangelo Letters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/391795397/391795398" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Vatican Says Ransom Sought For Missing Michelangelo Letters

Europe

Vatican Says Ransom Sought For Missing Michelangelo Letters

Vatican Says Ransom Sought For Missing Michelangelo Letters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/391795397/391795398" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In a development reminiscent of a Dan Brown thriller, the Vatican confirmed a report that it has received a ransom demand for the return of two stolen letters written by the renaissance master Michelangelo. It's the first time the theft has been revealed. A spokesman said the Vatican refused to pay.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Vatican has confirmed a report that it's received a ransom demand for the return of letters written by the Renaissance master Michelangelo. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports. It's the first time the theft has been revealed.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: It has the whiff of a Dan Brown thriller. The daily Il Messaggero reported Sunday that a former Vatican employee recently contacted a cardinal, saying he could get back a document stolen from the Vatican, but for a price - $110,000. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed the report, but said the cardinal who's in charge of St. Peter's Basilica naturally refused because these are stolen documents.

Lombardi said two Michelangelo letters were stolen. They were written in the 16th century by the artist who painted the Sistine Chapel, sculpted the Pieta and helped design St. Peter's Basilica. In 1997, Lombardi revealed a nun who worked at the Vatican Archives informed church officials that the documents had gone missing. The spokesman did not explain why the theft had never been made public.

According to the newspaper, an entire handwritten Michelangelo letter is very rare because the artist usually dictated letters to assistants and only signed them. They were part of the archives documenting the history, design and construction of St. Peter's, the largest church in Christendom, completed in 1626. Lombardi said Vatican police and their Italian counterparts are now investigating the latest twist in the tale of the missing Michelangelo letters. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.