Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with dr Marco Maiorino - an employee of the Vatican Secret Archive - a curator of the exhibition 'Lux in arcane

WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - Many people are intrigued by the fact that in Vatican there is a 'secret' archive...

DR MARCO MAIORINO: - The definition 'segreto' was first used in XVII century. It comes from the Latin expression 'secretum' which means 'private'. This adjective was supposed to emphasize the fact that it is about a private archive of the Pope who manages it and is its owner.

- In one word - the expression 'secret' is wrong and we should say about a private archive but the 'secrecy' of the Vatican Archive became one of many myths concerning the papacy and Vatican. Could you say where the rooms of Popes' Archives are?

- The Secret Vatican Archive takes up a big part of the Apostolic Palace in a wing which stretches along the Belveder Courtyard and in the so-called arm of Pius IV ('Braccio di Pio IV'). However, a significant part of documents is kept in modern rooms of the underground bunker which was opened by John Paul II.

- What documents are kept in the Vatican Secret Archive?

- It is a central archive of the Holy See, therefore all acts and documents connected with the management of the general Church are kept in it. These documents come from various Dicasteries and offices of Roman Curia, as well as the oldest ones such as Chancellory and Apostolic Camera. Besides historical archives, we also have documents coming from the present offices - the Secretariat of the State, congregation, tribunals, offices, papal councils and committees. A significant part of our collections are 90 historical archives of the diplomatic representatives of the Holy See in different parts of the world. We also have documents coming from private archives of prominent families connected with the Papal State, which have been purchased in the last dozens years of XIX century.

- Once popes kept rich archives also in the castle of St. Angel...

- It is true. It is about the so-called Archives di Castel Sant Angelo or Archivum Arcis - a collection of documents concerning the relations between the Holy See and secular authorities of many countries of the world. The total of the documents from the last millenium is 8.5 thousands - from IX to XIX century which today we keep in our archives.

- Besides the employees, who else has an access to the 'treasures' of the Archives?

- Thanks to the decision of Leon XIII in 1881, the documents of the Secret Vatican Archive were permitted to the consultations of scientists. They can study them according to pontificates and today they are accessible for a consultation of popes' pontificates till Pius XI. Paul VI exceptionally gave the 'Archive of the Second Vatican Council' to the disposal of investigators (1962 - 1965) and John Paul II - gave the archive of 'Vatican Information Bureau. War prisoners 1939 - 47'. At present our archive is visited by approximately 1200 scientists annually.

- How was the idea of the exhibition 'Lux in arcane. The Secret Vatican Archive reveals itself' born?

- This is the idea of the present prefect of the Secret Vatican Archive - Bishop Sergia Pagano, who wanted to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the beginning of our institution - the archive was created in 1612 from the initiative of Paul V from the Borghese family. Also the choice of the place for the exhibition is not accidental -the founder of Capitol Museums was also Pope Sykstus IV. Therefore the exposition of the documents of the Vatican Archives in this museum is to symbolize cultural relations between these institutions.

- According to what key were the documents chosen for the present exhibition?

- The choice of 100 documents among millions was very difficult. We decided to choose documents coming from the whole world, saved on various materials (paper, silk, parchment, bark, papal bulla, tsar's edicts, private letters, book- documents, codex, chancellory forms, acts of legal processes, etc. It was about very various documents which may show the best what is the Secret Vatican Archive. We chose documents connected with historical events more or less famous but always fascinating.

- The exhibition will be open for many months till September this year. Why should somebody, who will visit Rome at this time, see this exhibition?

- For various reasons. It is the only and unrepeatable occasion to 'discover' the history through unique documents. The exhibition gives an opportunity to 'contemplate' an unusual variety of documents - some of them make a great impression in respect of their form or sizes. The documents of our archive allow for studying 'transitus Domini', pilgrimages of Jesus all over the world who is present in the Church in all epochs of the mankind history.

Next week we will write about polonica from the Secret Vatican Archive in our weekly 'Sunday'.


"Niedziela" 19/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl