Friday, September 08, 2017

The Vatican Secret Archives


telegraph |  This is the Tower of the Winds, built by Ottavinao Mascherino between 1578 and 1580, a place to which mere members of the public are never normally admitted. 

Here in the Hall of the Meridian, a room covered in frescoes depicting the four winds, is a tiny hole high up in one of the walls. 

At midday, the sun, shining through the hole, falls along a white marble line set into the floor. On either side of this meridian line are various astrological and astronomical symbols, once used to try to calculate the effect of the wind upon the stars. 

But this is not the real reason why this man with the shabby trousers, the oddly distinguished-looking grey hair and the abundance of irrelevant detail has come to the Vatican. 

No, the real reason for this lies elsewhere in the Tower of Winds, in rooms lined with miles and miles of dark wooden shelves – more than 50 miles of them in fact. 

Here, bound in cream vellum, are thousands upon thousands of volumes, some more than a foot thick. 

This is the Vatican secret archive, possibly the most mysterious collection of documents in the world.
Here you can find accounts of the trial of the Knights Templar held at Chinon in August 1308; a threatening note from 1246 in which Ghengis Khan’s grandson demands that Pope Innocent IV travel to Asia to ‘pay service and homage; a letter from Lucretia Borgia to Pope Alexander VI; Papal Bulls excommunicating Martin Luther; correspondence between the Court of Henry VIII and Clement VII; and an exchange of letters between Michelangelo and Paul III. 

There are also letters from Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, St Bernadette, Voltaire and Abraham Lincoln. 

And here too – depending on how much faith you have in the novels of Dan Brown – lies proof that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and continued their own earthly line. 

Once, Napoleon had the whole of the secret archive transported to Paris. 

It was brought back, albeit with some key documents missing, in 1817 and has remained in the Vatican ever since – a constant source of myth and fascination. 

But now the Vatican Secret Archive is secret no more. 

wikipedia |   The Vatican Secret Archives (Latin: Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum; Italian: Archivio Segreto Vaticano) is the central repository in the Vatican City for all of the acts promulgated by the Holy See. The Pope, as Sovereign of Vatican City and having primal incumbency, owns the archives until his death or resignation, with ownership passing to his successor. The archives also contain the state papers, correspondence, papal account books,[1] and many other documents which the church has accumulated over the centuries. In the 17th century, under the orders of Pope Paul V, the Secret Archives were separated from the Vatican Library, where scholars had some very limited access to them, and remained closed to outsiders until 1881, when Pope Leo XIII opened them to researchers, more than a thousand of whom now examine some of its documents each year.[2]

The use of the word "secret" in the title "Vatican Secret Archives" does not denote the modern meaning of confidentiality. A fuller and perhaps better translation of the Latin may be the "private Vatican Apostolic archives". Its meaning is closer to that of the word "private", indicating that the archives are the Pope's personal property, not belonging to those of any particular department of the Roman Curia or the Holy See. The word "secret" was generally used in this sense as also reflected in phrases such as "secret servants", "secret cupbearer", "secret carver" or "secretary", much like an esteemed position of honour and regard comparable to a VIP.[3]

Parts of the Secret Archives remain truly secret, however: some materials are still prohibited for outside viewing, including everything dated after 1939.[4]