Spanish police have recovered a stolen 12th century religious manuscript considered the first guide to the 800-km Camino de Santiago (or Way of St. James) pilgrimage.

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One of the pages of the original Calixtinus Codex, shown in a 2004 photo. The religious manuscript was stolen last year and recovered Wednesday. (Associated Press)

The Codex Calixtinus was recovered Wednesday, a year after it was taken from a cathedral in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela.

On Tuesday, police in the town arrested a former church caretaker, his wife, his son and another woman related to the family in connection with the theft.

The elaborately illustrated medieval document — a collection of sermons and liturgical passages to guide Christian pilgrims — was stolen from a safe deposit box inside the Santiago de Compostela cathedral, which is located at the end of the pilgrimage route. The cathedral is the reputed burial site of St. James the Greater, one of Jesus' apostles who, according to the church, arrived in Spain to preach Christianity.

Police said they have recovered eight copies of the Codex, other ancient books and keys to cathedral outbuildings, which had been hidden in garages and storage areas close to the site.

One of the suspects was an electrician, caretaker and odd-job man at the cathedral for 25 years. He was suing the cathedral for unfair dismissal at the time of the theft.

Considered an important cultural artifact in Spain, the loss was called "the theft of the century" by Spanish media and a special police task force was put on the case. Experts had feared it was stolen to order for a private collector.

With files from The Associated Press