Former Vatican Staffer Arrested for Sale of Missing Bernini Manuscript

Vatican authorities have arrested a former employee for attempting to sell a 17th-century manuscript by Gian Lorenzo Bernini that he allegedly stole from an official archive of the Holy See. The news was first reported by the Italian daily Domani.

Bernini is renowned as a master of Baroque architecture, and the disappearance of the 18-page manuscript spurred an elaborate sting operation. The suspect allegedly met with Mauro Gambetti, head of administration at St. Peter’s Basilica, on May 27 under the belief that Gambetti was interested in buying the gilded document, which contains details of ornate features Bernini created to decorate the famous canopy rising above the basilica.

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Gambetti, however, had secretly partnered with Vatican investigators to ensnare the suspect, who was reportedly accompanied by an unidentified accomplice. After handing the seller a €120,000 ($129,000) check in exchange for the manuscript, Vatican gendarmes arrived and arrested him.

The seller has been identified in Italian media reports as the art historian Alfio Maria Daniele Pergolizzi, who is believed to have stolen the manuscript from the archives of the Fabric of St. Peter’s, an institution established in the 16th century to manage the construction of the basilica and that now oversees restoration of the structure. Pergolizzi served as head of the communications department between 1995 and 2011. Per Reuters, he is being detained in a Vatican prison on charges of attempted extortion. 

Vatican News, the state’s official media channel, reported that Alessandro Diddi, promoter of justice for the Church, will decide this week whether to indict Pergolizzi.

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