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Svyatoslav Teterin
Svyatoslav Teterin

The Secret Archives Of The Vatican WORK


The use of the word secret in the former title, "Vatican Secret Archive", does not denote the modern meaning of confidentiality. A fuller and perhaps better translation of the archive's former Latin name may be the "private Vatican Apostolic archive", indicating that its holdings are the pope's personal property, not those of any particular department of the Roman Curia or the Holy See. The word secret continues to be used in this older, original sense in the English language, in phrases such as secret servants, secret cupbearer, or secretary, much like an esteemed position of honour and regard comparable to a VIP.[6] One study in 1969 stated that use of the term secret was merited, as the archives' cataloguing system was so inadequate that it remained "an extensive buried city, a Herculaneum inundated by the lava of time ... secret as an archeological dig is secret".[7]




The Secret Archives of The Vatican



Despite the change in name, parts of the archive do remain classified in the modern sense of the word secret; most of these classified materials, which are actively denied to outsiders, relate to contemporary personalities and activities, including everything dated after 1958, as well as the private records of church figures after 1922.[8][9]


In later centuries, as the Church amassed power, popes would visit heads of state to negotiate treaties or make political appearances around Europe. Popes would also have multiple places of residency. When they travelled for diplomatic or other purposes, they would take their archives with them, since they needed it for administrative work. This resulted in some loss of items.[7]


By the 11th century, the archives of the church were devolved to at least three separate sites: the Lateran, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Palatine palace.[7] Between the 11th and the 13th centuries, a large part of these archives disappeared.[citation needed]


When the Popes moved to Avignon, the process of transporting their archives took twenty years, all told. The various places where the archives were kept along the way were sacked by the Ghibellines three separate times, in 1314, 1319, and 1320.[7]


Antipopes also had their own archives. The Western Schism resulted in two sets of papal archives being developed at once; this rose to three during the era of Pisan antipope John XXIII.[7] The disparate archives of the rival papal claimants were not fully reunited in the Vatican's archives until 1784.[7]


In 1879, Pope Leo XIII appointed as archivist Cardinal Josef Hergenröther, who immediately wrote a memo recommending that historians be allowed access to the archive.[14] Access had remained limited out of concern that Protestant researchers might use their access to slander or embarrass the Church. Hergenröther's approach led to Pope Leo ordering a reading room constructed for researchers; it opened on 1 January 1881.[15] When the German Protestant historian Theodor von Sickel, in April 1883, published the results of his research in the archive, which defended the Church against charges of forgery,[c] Pope Leo was further persuaded. In August 1883 he wrote to the three cardinals who shared responsibility for the archives and praised the potential of historical research to clarify the role of the papacy in European culture and Italian politics. He announced that the archives would be open to research that was impartial and critical. In an address to the Görres Society in February 1884, Pope Leo said: "Go to the sources. That is why I have opened the archives to you. We are not afraid of people publishing documents out of them."[16][17]


In 1979, historian Carlo Ginzburg sent a letter to the newly elected Pope John Paul II, asking that the archives of the Holy Office (the Roman Inquisition) be opened. Pope Benedict XVI said that letter was instrumental in the Vatican's decision to open those archives.[18]


Pope Francis announced on 4 March 2019 that materials relating to Pope Pius XII would be opened on 2 March 2020, stating that Pius' legacy had been "debated and even criticized (one might say with some prejudice or exaggeration)", that "The Church is not afraid of history", and that he anticipated "appropriate criticism".[23] In addition to assessing Pius' response to the Holocaust, the archives of the papacy of Pope Pius XII should point to a much broader shift in global Christianity from Europe to the global South.[24] Since 2006, members of the archives department have been organising the estimated 16 million pages of documents in order to prepare them for viewing by researchers.[25]


As of 2018[update], the archive had 180 terabytes of digital storage capacity, and had digitized over seven million images.[34] However, due to the vast size of the archives, this number represents a small fraction of the archives' total content, with an even smaller percentage having been transcribed into searchable computer text.[citation needed]


In 2017, a project based in Roma Tre University called In Codice Ratio began using artificial intelligence and optical character recognition to attempt to transcribe more documents from the archives.[35][36] While character-recognition software is adept at reading typed text, the cramped and many-serifed style of medieval handwriting makes distinguishing individual characters difficult for the software.[37] Many individual letters of the alphabet are often confused by human readers of medieval handwriting, let alone a computer program. The team behind In Codice Ratio tried to solve this problem by developing a machine-learning software that could parse this handwriting. Their program eventually achieved 96% accuracy in parsing this type of text.[38]


There are other Holy See archives in Rome, since each department of the Roman Curia has its own archives. The word "secret" in its modern sense can be applied to some of the material kept by the Apostolic Penitentiary, when it concerns matters of the internal forum; but registers of the rescripts that it issued up to 1564 have been deposited in the Vatican Apostolic Archives and are open for consultation by qualified scholars. Half of these have already been put in digital form for easier consultation. The confidentiality of the material means that, in spite of the centuries that have passed since 1564, special rules apply to its publication.[39]


To mark the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the collection of the Vatican Secret Archives in 2012, an exhibition called Lux in Arcana was opened to curious members of the public who could view 100 documents. While this only scratches the surface of the 80 kilometres of shelves in the archives, it was still a momentous occasion.


The most famous letter in the archives is the request of Henry VIII who needed an annulment from wife Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. The letter was supported by the signatures of 85 clergymen, including the Archbishop of Canterbury however, the Pope denied the request which was worded as a direct threat to the Church. Indeed, after the request was not approved, Henry VIII began the Church of England, so he could go ahead and give himself a divorce.


In Latin, both secretum, means separate or private) and apostolicum means, belonging to the domnus apostolicus, i.e. the pope). Thus, swapping the terms, for all practical purposes, did not change the archives' identity or purpose. It continues to be the private archives of the Pope.


However, it would not be so wrong to call it a secret archive, in the sense that the archives is not open to the common public, and only scholars and researchers. Parts of the archive continue to remain classified.


Included in the archives is a letter from Mary, the Queen of Scots, addressed to Pope Sixtus V. The letter was sent to the Pope months before her scheduled execution, where she requests him to save her life and free her from prison. Unfortunately, the Pope decided not to interpose and Mary was executed in 1587.


During the Crusades, the Knights Templar enjoyed a prestigious life of wealth and privilege, which eventually came to be seen as a liability. Following this, Philip IV of France ordered all the Knights to be arrested on October 13, 1307. After being tortured for years, many declared themselves guilty of the crime and were burned at the stake. Minutes from the trial that lasted for several years were documented and kept in the archives.


One of the most treasured documents inside the archives is a letter from Henry VIII requesting the Pope for an annulment from his wife Catherine of Aragon. Henry was in love with Anne Boleyn and wished to marry her. His letter was also signed by 85 members of the clergy, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unfortunately, the Pope denied his request, after which he started his own church and gave himself a divorce.


Over the years, the archives saw a progressive growth in the number of documents being housed, leading to the expansion of its premises. Alexander VII Chigi decided to extend the archive rooms to the ones immediately above the Noble Floor. Included in this section are official documents of the Secretariat of State dating back to the 17th century.


Towards the second half of the 18th century, prefects of the Vatican Archives began publishing collections of documents. Eventually, scholars were granted access to the material, including manuscripts relating to the trial of Galileo. This was briefly interrupted during the dissolution of the Papal States in order to maintain restricted access to the archives.


Pope Leo XIII appointed Cardinal Josef Hergenröther as the official archivist, who then went on to grant historians access to the archives. This access, however, remained limited to protect the Church from slander against Protestant researchers. In April 1883, Theodor von Sickel, the German Protestant historian, used documents in the archive to defend the Church against charges of forgery. Pleased by this outcome, this ultimately led to the archives being open to any research that was impartial and critical. 041b061a72


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