The Vatican has received ransom demands for the return of two rare documents written by the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, after they were stolen 20 years ago.
The theft of the documents by the famed artist, who painted the Sistine Chapel and designed part of St Peter’s Basilica, had been hushed up until today.
Following a report by the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero, a spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said a cardinal in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica had been contacted by a person who could get the documents back for ‘a certain price’.
Il Messaggero said the person, described as a former Vatican employee, had asked for 100,000 euros.
Lombardi said the cardinal ‘naturally refused because these are stolen documents’.
The spokesman said a nun who worked in the Vatican archives told officials in 1997 the documents had gone missing.
But he did not say why the news had not been made public until now.
The Il Messaggero reported that only one letter signed by Michelangelo, who lived from 1475 to 1564, had been stolen.
However the spokesman said two documents had gone.
He added that Vatican police were now investigating the case together with their Italian counterparts.
Neither the spokesman or the newspaper have disclosed any details of the documents, which were taken from the archives of the Vatican department that looks after the upkeep of the basilica.
The archives contain numerous documents concerning the history, design and construction of the world’s largest church.
It took more than 100 years to build and was completed in 1626.