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The Vatican Apostolic Archive (Latin : Archivum Apostolicum Vaticanum; Italian : Archivio Apostolico Vaticano), known until October 2019 as the Vatican Secret Archive, is the central repository in the Vatican City of all acts promulgated by the Holy See. The pope, as Sovereign of Vatican City, owns the material held in the archive until his death or resignation, with ownership passing to his successor. The archive also contains state papers, correspondence, account books, and many other documents that the church has accumulated over the centuries. In the 17th century, under the orders of Pope Paul V, the Secret Archive was separated from the Vatican Library, where scholars had some very limited access, and remained closed to outsiders until the late 19th century, when Pope Leo XIII opened the archive to researchers, more than a thousand of whom now examine some of its documents each year.
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", "secret carver", or "secretary", much like an esteemed position of honour and regard comparable to a VIP.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".
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 1939, as well as the private records of church figures after 1922.
On 28 October 2019, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio dated 22 October, renaming the archives from the Vatican Secret Archive to the Vatican Apostolic Archive.
In the 1st century of Christianity, the Church had already acquired, and begun to assemble, a sizable collection of records. Known alternately as the Holy Scrinium or the Chartarium, these records normally travelled with the current pope.The vast majority of these documents are now lost, but are known of through references in contemporary and later works.
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.
Initially, the archival materials of the Church were stored at the Lateran Palace, then the official papal residence.
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.Between the 11th and the 13th centuries, a large part of these archives disappeared.
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.
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.The disparate archives of the rival papal claimants were not fully reunited in the Vatican's archives until 1784.
During the 1404 sack of the Vatican, papal registers and historical documents were thrown into the streets, and Pope Innocent VII fled the city. His successor, Pope Gregory XII, supposedly sold off a large number of archival materials in 1406, including some of the papal registers.
In 1612, Pope Paul V ordered all Church records assembled in one place.
As Napoleon conquered the states on the Italian peninsula in the 1790s, he demanded works of art and manuscripts as tribute. His armistice with Holy See on 23 June 1796 stipulated that "the Pope shall deliver to the French Republic one hundred pictures, busts, vases or statues ... and five hundred manuscripts", all chosen by French agents. The 1798 Treaty of Tolentino made even greater demands, and the works sent to Paris included the Codex Vaticanus , the oldest extant manuscript of the Bible in Greek.
By the time Napoleon became emperor in 1804, he envisaged a central archive in Paris of the records and treasures of Europe. In 1809 he ordered the entire Vatican Archive transferred to Paris, and by 1813 more than 3,000 crates had been shipped, with only modest losses.
In April 1814, following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the new French government ordered the archive returned, but provided inadequate financing. Vatican officials raised funds by selling some volumes as well as bundling documents for sale by weight.Inadequate funding led to losses en route, with one scholar of the period estimating that "about one-fourth to one-third of the archival materials that went to Paris never returned to the Vatican."
In 1855, Augustin Theiner, prefect of the Archive, began to publish multi-volume collections of documents from the archive.His predecessor Marino Marini had produced an account of Galileo's trials that failed to satisfy scholars who saw it as an apology for the Inquisition. Beginning in 1867, Theiner and his successor granted individual scholars access to the manuscripts relating to the trial of Galileo, leading to an extended dispute about their authenticity. Scholarly access was briefly interrupted following the dissolution of the Papal States in 1870, when archive officials restricted access to assert their control against competing claims by the victorious Italian state.
In 1879, Pope Leo XIII appointed as archivist Cardinal Josef Hergenröther, who immediately wrote a memo recommending that historians be allowed to access to the archive.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. When the German Protestant historian Theodor von Sickel, in April 1883, published the results of his research in the archive that defended the Church against charges of forgery, 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."
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.
Though the archive has developed policies that restrict access to material by pontificate, with access granted 75 years after the close of a pope's reign, popes have granted exceptions. Pope Paul VI made the records of the Second Vatican Council available not long after it ended. In 2002, for example, Pope John Paul II allowed scholars access to documents from the historical archives of the Secretariat of State (Second Section) pertaining to the Holy See's relations with Germany during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI (1922–39) in order "to put an end to unjust and thoughtless speculation" about the Church's relationship with the Nazi Party.
Following the success of the 2008 film Angels & Demons , adapted from the Dan Brown novel of the same name, which depicts a visit to the Archive, the Vatican opened the Archives to a select group of journalists in 2010 to dispute the film's treatment.
In 2018, Pope Francis ordered the Vatican Archive to open documents which would assist in a "thorough study" concerning former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of sexually molesting seminarians and having affairs with young priests.
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".In addition to assessing Pius's response to the Holocaust, the archives of the papacy of Pope Pius XII should point to much broader shift in global Christianity from Europe to the global South. Since 2006, members of the archives department have been organising the estimated 16 million pages of documents, to get them ready for viewing by researchers.
The Vatican Apostolic Archive has been estimated to contain 85 kilometres (53 mi) of shelving, with 35,000 volumes in the selective catalogue alone.
Complete archives of letters written by the popes, known as the papal registers, are available beginning with the papacy of Pope Innocent III (r. 1198–1216). A few registers of earlier popes also survive, including Pope John VIII (r. 872–882) and Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073–1085).There is little other documentation of the papacy before the 13th century.
Notable documents include Henry VIII of England's request for a marriage annulment, [ failed verification ] a handwritten transcript of the trial of Galileo for heresy, and letters from Michelangelo complaining he had not been paid for work on the Sistine Chapel.
To mark the 400th anniversary of the Vatican Archives, 100 documents dating from the 8th to the 20th century were put on display from February to September 2012 in the "Lux in arcana – The Vatican Secret Archives reveals itself" exhibition held at the Capitoline Museums in Rome. They included the 1521 papal bull of excommunication of Martin Luther and a letter from Mary, Queen of Scots, written while awaiting her execution.
The archive also supports its own photographic and conservation studios.
The entrance to the Archive, adjacent to the Vatican Library, is through the Porta di S. Anna in via di Porta Angelica (rione of Borgo). New underground storage space was added in 1980.
Qualified scholars from institutions of higher education pursuing scientific research with an adequate knowledge of archival research may apply for an entry card. Scholars need an introductory letter from either a recognized institute of research or a suitably qualified person in their field of historical research. Applicants need to provide their personal data (name, address, etc.), as well as the purpose of their research. Only sixty researchers per day are allowed inside.
With limited exceptions, materials dated after 1939 were unavailable to researchers until 2 March 2020, when material from Pius XII's tenure (1939-1958) were opened. An entire section of the archives relating to the personal affairs of cardinals from 1922 onwards cannot be accessed.
Early in the 21st century, the Vatican Apostolic Archives began an in-house digitization project, to attempt to both make the documents more available to researchers and to help to preserve aging physical documents.
As of 2018 [update] , the archive had 180 terabytes of digital storage capacity, and had digitized over seven million images. 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.
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.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. 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.
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.
The Holy See, also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law, governing the Vatican City.
The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, the Roman pontiff or the Sovereign Pontiff, is the bishop of Rome, head of the worldwide Catholic Church and head of state or sovereign of the Vatican City State. According to Catholics, the primacy of the bishop of Rome is largely derived from his role as the apostolic successor to Saint Peter, to whom primacy was conferred by Jesus, giving him the Keys of Heaven and the powers of "binding and loosing", naming him as the "rock" upon which the church would be built. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013.
Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, such as the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany. After his death the State of Israel declared him to be a Righteous Gentile in recognition of the estimated 800,000 Jewish lives he saved.
Pope Paul VI was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 21 June 1963 to his death in 1978. Succeeding John XXIII, he continued the Second Vatican Council, which he closed in 1965, implementing its numerous reforms, and fostered improved ecumenical relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, which resulted in many historic meetings and agreements.
The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the pope's name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular churches and provides the central organization for the church to advance its objectives.
Vatican City, officially the Vatican City State, is an independent city state and enclave located within Rome, Italy. The Vatican City State, also known simply as the Vatican, became independent from Italy with the Lateran Treaty (1929), and it is a distinct territory under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See, itself a sovereign entity of international law, which maintains the city state's temporal, diplomatic, and spiritual independence. With an area of 49 hectares and a population of about 825, it is the smallest state in the world by both area and population. As governed by the Holy See, the Vatican City State is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the pope who is the bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. After the Avignon Papacy (1309–1437), the popes have mainly resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.
Pope Leo XIII was the head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death in 1903. He was the oldest pope, with the exception of Pope Benedict XVI as emeritus pope, and had the third-longest confirmed pontificate, behind those of Pius IX and John Paul II.
Pius IX was head of the Catholic Church from 1846 to 1878, the longest verified papal reign. At the time of his election, he was seen as a champion of liberalism and reform, but later changed course and strongly opposed such ideas. He was notable for convoking the First Vatican Council in 1868 and for permanently losing papal control of the Papal States in 1870 to the Kingdom of Italy. He refused to leave Vatican City, declaring himself a "prisoner of the Vatican". His diplomacy mixes many failures with some successes such as Austria-Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Canada, Tuscany, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti.
The Lateran Treaty was one component of the Lateran Pacts of 1929, agreements between the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emanuel III and the Holy See under Pope Pius XI to settle the long-standing Roman Question. The treaty and associated pacts were named after the Lateran Palace where they were signed on 11 February 1929, and the Italian parliament ratified them on 7 June 1929. The treaty recognized Vatican City as an independent state under the sovereignty of the Holy See. The Italian government also agreed to give the Roman Catholic Church financial compensation for the loss of the Papal States. In 1948, the Lateran Treaty was recognized in the Constitution of Italy as regulating the relations between the state and the Catholic Church.
The papal tiara is a crown that was worn by popes of the Catholic Church from as early as the 8th century to the mid-20th. It was last used by Pope Paul VI in 1963 and only at the beginning of his reign.
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the pope, the head of the Catholic Church, located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Papal Palace, the Palace of the Vatican and the Vatican Palace. The Vatican itself refers to the building as the Palace of Sixtus V, in honor of Pope Sixtus V, who built most of the present form of the palace.
The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church is an office of the papal household that administers the property and revenues of the Holy See. Formerly, his responsibilities included the fiscal administration of the Patrimony of Saint Peter. As regulated in the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus of 1988, the camerlengo is always a cardinal, though this was not the case prior to the 15th century. His heraldic arms are ornamented with two keys – one gold, one silver – in saltire, surmounted by an ombrellino, a canopy or umbrella of alternating red and yellow stripes. These also form part of the coat of arms of the Holy See during a papal interregnum. The camerlengo has been Kevin Farrell since his appointment by Pope Francis on 14 February 2019. The vice camerlengo has been Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari since 1 May 2020.
The Vatican Apostolic Library, more commonly known as the Vatican Library or informally as the Vat, is the library of the Holy See, located in Vatican City. Formally established in 1475, although it is much older—it is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. It has 75,000 codices from throughout history, as well as 1.1 million printed books, which include some 8,500 incunabula.
A papal conclave is a gathering of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a bishop of Rome, also known as the pope. The pope is considered by Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Catholic Church.
Ludwig Pastor, later Ludwig von Pastor, Freiherr von Campersfelden, was a German historian and a diplomat for Austria. He became one of the most important Roman Catholic historians of his time and is most notable for his History of the Popes. He was raised to the nobility by the Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1908. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature six times.
The history of the papacy, the office held by the pope as head of the Catholic Church, according to Catholic doctrine, spans from the time of Peter to the present day. However the first bishop of Rome to be contemporaneously referred to as Pope is Damasus I (366–84). Moreover, many of the bishops of Rome in the first three centuries of the Christian era are obscure figures. Most of Peter's successors in the first three centuries following his life suffered martyrdom along with members of their flock in periods of persecution, and do not seem to have recognized any supreme hierarchy to be passed on within the church.
The Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ACDF), commonly referred to as the Archive of the Inquisition, contains the Catholic Church's documents dealing with doctrinal and theological issues related to church teaching. It also contains information on political trials that were carried out when the papacy had temporal power over the Papal States.
The history of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus responsible for managing the affairs of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, can be traced to the 11th century when informal methods of administration began to take on a more organized structure and eventual a bureaucratic form. The Curia has undergone a series of renewals and reforms, including a major overhaul following the loss of the Papal States, which fundamentally altered the range and nature of the Curia's responsibilities, removing many of an entirely secular nature.
Vatican City pursued a policy of neutrality during World War II, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII. Although the city of Rome was occupied by Germany from September 1943 and the Allies from June 1944, Vatican City itself was not occupied. The Vatican organised extensive humanitarian aid throughout the duration of the conflict.
The orders, decorations, and medals of the Holy See include titles, chivalric orders, distinctions and medals honoured by the Holy See, with the Pope as the fount of honour, for deeds and merits of their recipients to the benefit of the Holy See, the Catholic Church, or their respective communities, societies, nations and the world at large.
Signed Oct. 22 and released Oct. 28, the pope's new norm goes into effect immediately.
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