With the help of the US Department of Homeland Security, a 15th-century copy of a letter Christopher Columbus sent to his royal patrons describing the riches of the New World has been returned to its rightful owner – the Vatican.
The rare eight-page document, estimated to be worth $1.2 million, had been secretly replaced with a forgery, while the true document eventually ended up in the hands of a US collector from Atlanta.
The late Robert Parsons had purchased the piece for $875,000 in the United States in 2004 “in good faith,” unaware it had been stolen.
Callista Gingrich, US ambassador to the Holy See, and representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and its investigations division presented the original copy during a ceremony on 14th June at the Vatican Library. Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, head of the Vatican Library and Vatican Secret Archives, and Mgr Cesare Pasini, the library’s prefect, also attended the ceremony.
“This is a historic day,” the archbishop said, as an important document that is part of the history of the Americas and Spain “returns home.”
Picture: A copy of a Christopher Columbus letter, stolen from the Vatican Library and returned by the United States, is seen displayed at the Vatican on 14th June. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, pool).