The mayor of a Spanish town has received a ransom demand for the stolen skull of a 14th-century pope.
    The cranium belonged to Benedict XIII, a Spaniard whose 14th-century papacy was part of a tumultuous period called the Great Schism because there were rival popes in the Catholic Church.
    After Benedict XIII died in 1423, his remains changed hands several times, and over the centuries all but the skull was lost. It was stolen in April from a rundown mansion in the town of Sabinan, in his native Aragon region in northeast Spain.
    Now, the mayor of Illueca the pontiff's birthplace says he was contacted by someone claiming to have the skull and willing to relinquish it for a price.
    "I honestly believe this is no joke," Mayor Javier Vicente Ines said on Tuesday.
    He said he received photos late last month along with the first of two letters, including shots of the cranium inside the glass urn where it had been stored in the Sabinan mansion.
24 Aug 00

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