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The manuscript describes specifications for gilding the friezes on the baldachin inside St Peter’s Basilica (CNS/Lola Gomez)

A former employee of St Peter’s Basilica is in Vatican custody after allegedly being caught in a Vatican-orchestrated sting operation involving the sale of a manuscript by Italian baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Source: CNS.

The suspect, a former employee of the Fabbrica di San Pietro – the office responsible for the basilica’s upkeep – reportedly attempted to sell an 18-page manuscript, which had been missing from its archives, back to the basilica.

The Italian newspaper Domani first reported the arrest on June 6, and the Vatican prosecutor’s office later confirmed it.

Though it is not clear where the manuscript was obtained, Domani reported that the suspect was arrested on May 27 after a fabricated transaction in which Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, exchanged a check for 120,000 euros (about $195,000) for the manuscript.

Upon leaving the meeting with the cardinal, the suspect was taken into custody, interrogated and arrested.

According to Vatican News, the manuscript describes specifications for gilding the friezes on the baldachin, or canopy, that towers over the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica; the baldachin was designed and constructed by Bernini in the early 17th century.

The manuscript reappeared in 2021 when a photocopy of it was used in a book on Bernini. The suspect was the editor of the volume and after its publication began negotiations with the basilica to sell the manuscript, Vatican News reported.

Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, is expected to reach a decision about the indictment this week. 


Ex-Vatican employee arrested for trying to sell Bernini manuscript (By Justin McLellan, CNS via NCR Online)