The Codex Calixtinus – Part II – Dan Brown


When it couldn’t get any worse for the dean, newspapers begin reporting that the Codex Calixtinus wasn’t even insured.

(Part I of this series on the Codex Calixtinus here.)

But as the Codex writers themselves were all too well aware a millennium ago truth is drearily more boring than fiction. The “high-tech security” reported initially by the media to have been fooled in the robbery turn out to be a gross exaggeration. It surfaces that there were five security cameras around the vault alright, but the vault was actually open and accessible and, oops, the cameras weren’t on, or maybe it was that they weren’t pointing at the glass case because they’d been repointed into wall-eyed stupidity. Over the next few months in the drip-drip of subsequent press notices it becomes clear that the document was totally, scandalously, and absurdly unprotected. It was left unlocked in its safe, but even that hardly mattered because the keys to the safe were left in the lock.

When it couldn’t get any worse for the dean, newspapers begin reporting that the Codex Calixtinus wasn’t even insured.

Although nobody could find the records that let you know who had looked at the manuscript when or last or why the keys were left in the safe’s lock, the police did have a pretty good list of internal people who had access historically to the vault, and that included a former employee, Manuel Fernandez Castineiras. He’d been fired for forging work related documents after twenty-five years of handyman work inside the cathedral. The guy had been sweeping around the safe that held the documents for years, scolding unauthorized visitors getting too close to the room. Perhaps he began nudging the video cameras with his broom handle to see what he could get away with and whether anybody would notice.

Even if he couldn’t read a word of Latin, he’d been looking at that vault for 25 years. And he knew that the major document within it had been bringing visitors to Santiago for a millennium. It had filled the city of Santiago with close to a quarter of a million people a year for the last decade. It was the pride of his region, of his homeland. Somebody had to be willing to pay dearly for it, however you say that in Spanish.

Within days the Codex Calixtinus turned up in his garage, just miles from the cathedral, where he’d been made redundant. The guarda civil found $1.5 million dollars in cash in his home; another treasured artifact, the cathedral’s Book of Hours; and the lost Codex Calixtinus. There also discover eight additional later reproductions of the Codex Calixtinus. The handyman had grabbed them all indiscriminately, perhaps because he couldn’t tell the difference between any of them even after 25 years. The viscount would know.


The official police photo shows the squalid hovel of a garage where the books and cash were found. It couldn’t be further from cinematic villain and his shark tank. The photo shows: a cinder block, dirty plaster-dust on an old box that looks like it once held bathroom tiles, crunched up pieces of large format paper, a metal shelf, and a dilapidated cardboard box where the treasured books were left in garbage bags. There is the end of something that looks like a wooden coat hanger or a deer antler at lower left of frame. There is some kind of Portuguese flattened box that reads Friportus. The items look like they survived a basement flood.

The shameless Castineiras – who still has a lawsuit against the church for not hiring him to replace the cathedral lighting – was videotaped leaving the cathedral the Sunday afternoon of the robbery with a bundle under his arm. He stopped off to have coffee with friends at La Quintana, a local café, before heading home. A waiter at the café reported later that the disgruntled cathedral worker “got along well with other former coworkers, but railed against the priests, saying they were thieves.” [Italics mine] Shortly after the document thefts he’d started buying expensive Spanish property well beyond the justifiable means of an electrician. A wife, a son, and a fourth collaborator have all since been arrested. Church representatives have been photographed receiving the Codex Calixtinus from the police in front of the cathedral looking like they were receiving a giant lottery check.

In a touch of almost poetic symmetry, it turns out Castineiras left his garage unlocked. The doors to the sacred and the profane can be opened with minimal effort.

To be continued…