U.S. Returns Stolen 500-Year-Old Christopher Columbus Letter to the Vatican. U.S. Ambassador Callista Gingrich has presented a 500-year-old document, written by Christopher Columbus, to the Vatican library. Following his 1492 expedition, Columbus wrote to his sponsors, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He praised the fertile land and described natives who were ripe for conversion to Christianity. The letter was immediately translated into Latin and reprinted in Rome. The Vatican got a copy, and held it in their library for safe keeping. Or so they thought.