| Latin: Archivum Apostolicum Vaticanum|
Italian: Archivio Apostolico Vaticano
Former seal of the Vatican Apostolic Archive
|Headquarters|| Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican City |
Location on a map of Vatican City
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 for all of the 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 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 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 Latin 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 English 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 said the name "secret" was merited because the 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".
Parts of the Archive do, however, remain truly secret (or "classified" in a modern context). Most of the 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 changing the name Vatican Secret Archive to Vatican Apostolic Archive.
In the first century of Christianity, the Church was already assembling a sizable collection of records. Known alternately as the Holy Scrinium or the Chartarium, it normally travelled with the current Pope.The vast majority of these documents are now lost, but we know of them 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 3000 crates had been shipped with only modest losses.
In April 1814, following Napoleon's defeat, 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 and one scholar of the period estimates 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 to 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 Archive and praised the potential of historical research to clarify the role of the papacy in European culture and Italian politics. He announced that the Archive 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 in 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 will be opened on 2 March 2020. Francis said that Pius's 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 Innocent III (r. 1198-1216). A few registers of earlier popes also survive, including John VIII (r. 872-882) and 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,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 Archive, 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 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 are unavailable to researchers until 2 March 2020, when material from Pius XII's tenure (1939-1958) is 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.
The Archives by 2018 had 180 terabytes of digital storage capacity, and had digitized over seven million images.Given how vast the Archives are, however, this means that only a small fraction of the total content of the Archives is available online; an even smaller percentage has 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 First Vatican Council was convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868, after a period of planning and preparation that began on 6 December 1864. This, the twentieth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, held three centuries after the Council of Trent, opened on 8 December 1869 and adjourned on 20 October 1870. Unlike the five earlier general councils held in Rome, which met in the Lateran Basilica and are known as Lateran councils, it met in the Vatican Basilica, hence its name. Its best-known decision is its definition of papal infallibility.
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 to 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, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.
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. Montini served in the Holy See's Secretariat of State from 1922 to 1954. While in the Secretariat of State, Montini and Domenico Tardini were considered as the closest and most influential advisors of Pius XII, who in 1954 named him Archbishop of Milan, the largest Italian diocese. Montini later became the Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference. John XXIII elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1958, and after the death of John XXIII, Montini was considered one of his most likely successors.
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 Vatican City State, is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Established with the Lateran Treaty (1929), it is distinct from, yet under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See. With an area of 44 hectares, and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population.
Pope Pius IX was head of the Catholic Church from 16 June 1846 to his death on 7 February 1878. He was the longest-reigning elected pope, serving for over 31 years. During his pontificate, Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council (1869–70), which decreed papal infallibility, but the council was cut short owing to the loss of the Papal States.
The Lateran Treaty was one component agreement that made up the Lateran Pacts of 1929, the agreements made in 1929 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See settling the "Roman Question". The treaty and associated pacts are named after the Lateran Palace, where they were signed on 11 February 1929. The Italian parliament ratified them on 7 June 1929. The Lateran Treaty recognized Vatican City as an independent state under the sovereignty of the Holy See. The Italian government, at the time led by Benito Mussolini as prime minister, also agreed to give the Roman Catholic Church financial compensation for the loss of the Papal States. In 1947, the Lateran Treaty was recognized in the Constitution of Italy as regulating the relations between the state and the Catholic Church.
A papal coronation was the ceremony of the placing of the papal tiara on a newly elected pope. The first recorded papal coronation was that of Nicholas I in 858. The last was the 1963 coronation of Paul VI, who soon afterwards abandoned the practice of wearing the tiara. None of his successors have used the tiara, and their papal inauguration celebrations have included no coronation ceremony.
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 Giampiero Gloder since 20 December 2014.
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 prisoner in the Vatican or prisoner of the Vatican is how Pope Pius IX was described following the capture of Rome by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy on 20 September 1870. Part of the process of Italian unification, the city's capture ended the millennial temporal rule of the popes over central Italy and allowed Rome to be designated the capital of the new nation. The appellation is also applied to Pius' successors through Pope Pius XI.
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.
Humanum genus is a papal encyclical promulgated on 20 April 1884 by Pope Leo XIII.
The black nobility or black aristocracy are Roman aristocratic families who sided with the Papacy under Pope Pius IX after the Savoy family-led army of the Kingdom of Italy entered Rome on 20 September 1870, overthrew the Pope and the Papal States, and took over the Quirinal Palace, and any nobles subsequently ennobled by the Pope prior to the 1929 Lateran Treaty.
The Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, 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 coats of arms of the Holy See and Vatican City in the form that combines two crossed keys and a tiara used as a coat of arms of the Holy See have origins attested from the 14th century. The combination of one gold and one silver key is somewhat later.
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 1943 and the Allies from 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.
The Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, or the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo from its Italian name Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo, is a 135-acre (54.6-ha) complex of buildings in a garden setting in the city of Castel Gandolfo, Italy, including the principal 17th-century villa, an observatory and a farmhouse with 75 acres (30.4 ha) of farmland. The main structure, the Papal Palace, has been a museum since October 2016. It served for centuries as a summer residence and vacation retreat for the pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, and is afforded extraterritorial status as one of the properties of the Holy See. It overlooks Lake Albano.
Signed Oct. 22 and released Oct. 28, the pope's new norm goes into effect immediately.
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