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Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Lawyer for arrested former Vatican employee says manuscript is a mystery

By Vaseline Jun10,2024

ROME (CNS) – The lawyer for the former Vatican employee accused of selling St. Peter’s Basilica an allegedly stolen 17th-century manuscript on plans for the massive canopy over the basilica’s main altar, said the illustrated manuscript is different from the manuscript stated in the catalogue. archives and later reported missing.

Angelo Coccìa, the lawyer, told Catholic News Service on June 10 that even the arrest warrant for his client, Alfio Maria Daniele Pergolizzi, showed doubt when it claimed that the item Pergolizzi was trying to sell was “presumably traceable” to a booklet purchased in 1879 for the archives of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office that oversees the maintenance of the basilica.

Pergolizzi was arrested by Vatican police on May 27 after a sting operation in which he handed over the manuscript to Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of the basilica and president of the Fabbrica, in exchange for a check for 120,000 euros (about $130,700).

From 1995 to 2011, Pergolizzi worked for Fabbrica, where he was photo archivist and de facto communications officer. He founded a publishing house specializing in art books and after leaving the Basilica he continued publishing as a full-time career until the company went bankrupt in 2022 or 2023.

Coccìa said his client has been in a cell in the barracks of the Vatican gendarmes since his arrest. The Vatican prosecutor questioned Pergolizzi on May 27 and 28 and scheduled another hearing for June 10. Coccìa said that upon that appointment he would make a second formal request for Pergolizzi’s release.

The manuscript that Pergolizzi had tried to sell to Cardinal Gambetti is called “Oro messo nelli bronzi” (Gold placed in the bronze statues), Coccìa said, while the Vatican repeatedly referred to the missing or stolen manuscript, including in the arrest warrant, as “a manuscript entitled: ‘Little Book of Gold.’”

The Vatican described the stolen manuscript as having 16 numbered pages, Coccìa said, while the piece in Pergolizzi’s possession has 36 pages and is not numbered.

The lawyer said Pergolizzi’s manuscript appears to have been prepared in 1633 by associates of Gian Lorenzo Bernini to raise money to pay for the Baroque master’s enormous baldachin, or canopy, over the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. The 36-page manuscript, Coccìa said, includes details on the weights and dimensions of the gold Bernini wanted to use on the canopy, drawings illustrating where the gold would be placed and descriptions of how it would be attached to the bronze canopy.

Pergolizzi claimed that Msgr. Vittorino Canciani, one of the canons of St. Peter’s Basilica, asked him to assess the authenticity of the manuscript and its value. Later, the priest presented him with the manuscript and told him that if he ever sold it, he should donate some of the money to charities in Rome run by religious sisters. mgr. Canciani died in 2014.

Because the manuscript was a gift, Coccìa said, Pergolizzi never had a certificate of ownership.

Coccìa said Msgr. Canciani had told his client that the manuscript had been given to him by friends and was not the property of the Fabbrica. The theory from Pergolizzi and Bernini scholars he worked with is that the manuscript was presented to Pope Urban VIII, who placed it in his private collection, which was then passed on to his family – the Barberini.

However, the Vatican prosecutor said the manuscript was purchased by the Fabbrica archivist in 1879 and was listed as missing by the Fabbrica archivist in 1994. Then, the prosecutor said, Pergolizzi contacted the Fabbrica in April to ask if they had any documents. which testifies to the existence of the ‘little book of gold’.

Pergolizzi relies on the testimony of Maria Grazia D’Amelio, professor of architectural history and author of a 2021 book on Bernini and the gold for the canopy, a book published by Pergolizzi’s company and containing a facsimile of the 36-page manuscript.

Coccìa said D’Amelio has already told the Vatican court that in her research in the Fabbrica archives between 1979 and 2017, she never saw a trace of reference to Pergolizzi’s manuscript.

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Copyright © 2024 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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