The Vatican Secret Archives is the central repository in the Vatican City for all of the acts promulgated by the Holy See.
What is the Vatican Secret Archives?
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, 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.
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.
The Vatican Secret Archives have been estimated to contain 85 kilometres (53 mi) of shelving, and there are 35,000 volumes in the selective catalogue alone. “Indexes must be consulted in the Index Room and replaced in their original location. Publication of the indexes, in part or as a whole, is forbidden.” The Archives support their own photographic and conservation studios.
According to the website of the Archives, the oldest surviving document dates back to the end of the eighth century. “Transfers and political upheavals nearly caused the total loss of all the archival material preceding Innocent III” (reigned 1198–1216). From 1198 onwards, complete archives exist, though documentation is scant before the 13th century. Since that time, the documentation includes items such as Henry VIII of England’s request for a marriage annulment, a handwritten transcript of the trial against Galileo for heresy, and letters from Michelangelo complaining he hadn’t been paid for work on the Sistine Chapel.
Parts of the Secret Archives remain truly secret, however: some materials are still prohibited for outside viewing, including everything dated after 1939.
Image : Photo by Galen Crout
Text : Wikipedia contributors. “Vatican Secret Archives.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Dec. 2017. Web. 10 Dec. 2017.