Let’s peek inside the Vatican’s Secret Archives!
How exciting! Long before Dan Brown wrote Angels and Demons earth shaking stories about what is hidden in the Vatican's vaults were around. The Catholic church keeps most of its documents looked away from the public. Not even scholars have access to all collections in the Vatican's Secret Archive. But now some are, for the first time ever, on public display. Devote 2 minutes to take a look inside the Secret Archives:
The documents at the current exhibition in Rome serves as a fascinating journey into the memories of the past of the church, empires, kingdoms and republics. For six months about a hundred documents will be on display at the Capitoline Museum.
Some documents on display
- The 1521 decree from Pope Leo X excommunicating German monk Martin Luther
- A 1530 petition asking Pope Clement VIII to annul Henry VIII of England's marriage to Catherine of Aragon
- Letter from Mary Queen of Scots to Pope Sixtus V, written just weeks before she was beheaded by Queen Elizabeth of England.
- The judicial acts of the trial of Galileo
- A letter from the guillotine-bound Marie Antoinette
Some letters are written in the Vatican's own encrypted code used to prevent secret messages between the Holy See and its diplomats being intercepted by hostile powers. The oldest of those are from the first half of the 14th century.
Re-branding the Vatican
It's all part of an effort to get away from being seen as an institution that keep historical, and potentially damaging, documents sealed away. To put an end to being a source and symbol of intrigue that provide endless fodder to conspiracy theorists.
Pius XII's documents still kept secret
Have personally been interested in the Secret Archive since I was a teenager and read about how Pope Pius XII collaborated with the Nazis. Sadly however, those documents stay locked behind metal fences. Vatican officials say they need time to index them but from what I understand it's actually an issue of papal prerogative.
So for all the scholars with an interest in what Pope Pius did or didn't do, the collection will be kept hidden. Can't help wondering if it's really a good idea to keep such controversial documents under lock when you are trying to re-brand yourself? Wouldn't it be better to release them even if the content is damaging for Pope Pius XII? He passed away a long time ago and the Vatican would, if worse comes to worse, gain respect for admitting that he did something wrong and apologise for his mistakes. The re-branding effort would definitely have gained from doing so.
But it's a huge step forward for the Vatican to release papal files to the public. In the past you could be thrown into the papal dungeons for doing so. Now a modern look will also be launched with new logos, slogans and costumes, in fact even a re-launch of the Christian fait, to re-package the Vatican and the Catholic faith.
Is this the beginning of a new era of transparency for the Vatican? Will the documents relating to Pius XII's reign eventually be released? Or only part of them? Will holding an exhibition have an impact on how the institution is perceived? Or is it just a lame effort to make it appear as if the church has adapted to the modern era in order to keep its power? Will the re-branding effort work? Is it a good idea for the Holy See to re-brand itself and adapt to the modern world? Or would they gain from being shrouded in secrecy? Will more faiths follow in the Vaticans footsteps and re-brand themselves?
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