The Vatican archives, more than 1,000 year old, will go on show in a special exhibition in Rome's Capitoline Museums from February to September this year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the establishment.
Conclaves, heresies, popes and emperors. Crusades, excommunications, ciphered letters. Manuscripts, codices, ancient parchments, strings, deeds and registers. A unique and once-in-a-lifetime event recounting history through its sources as it will be the first and possibly the only time in history allowed out of the Vatican vaults: 100 original documents, preserved for 400 years in the Popes' Archive, 85 linear kilometers of shelving; records of an extraordinary historical value, covering a time-span that stretches from the 8th to the 20th century.
The title, Lux in Arcana, communicates the main scope of the exhibition: the light that filters through the nooks and crannies of the Archive (lux in arcana) illuminates a reality that is sealed off from a superficial knowledge, but understandable only through actual and direct contact with the Archive's sources, that opens the doors to the discovery of the sometimes unrevealed history narrated by the documents.
The Vatican Secret Archives represents a cultural heritage of humanity that has as its epicentre the city of Rome
The exhibition is enriched by multimedia installations, guided by an intriguing but rigorous historical narration, to experience some famous events from the past and to "re-live" the documents, that will come to life with tales of the context and the people involved.
Documents of exceptional historical value will be put on display, among which it is possible to find Gregory VIII's Dictatus Papae; the bull that proclaimed Frederick II's deposition;; the records of Galileo Galilei's trial; the letter written on silk by Emperess Helena of China; the letter written on birch bark written by Native Americans to Leo XIII.
You will also find an appeal by the English Parliament asking the Pope to annul Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The parchment document, which bears the red wax seals of more than 80 English lords, cardinals and bishops, was sent to Pope Clement VII in 1530 but failed to resolve the dispute, which eventually led to religious schism and the founding of the Church of England.
Documents from the heresy trial of Galileo Galilei, whose scientific theories attracted the hostility of the Catholic Church in the early 17th century and one of the most unusual documents is a letter written on birch bark in 1887 by the Ojibwe Native Americans of Ontario, Canada, to Pope Leo XIII.
Other previously unseen documents of the so-called "closed period" are related to Pope Pius XII, who has been accused of not doing enough to speak out about the Holocaust during the Second World War.
The Capitoline Museums were chosen to underline the strong bond between the city of Rome and the Papacy from the Middle Ages. The magnificent rooms of the Palazzo dei Conservatori are a monument of civil history in the Rome of the Popes and the Vatican documents will fit in perfectly.
The origins of both institutions involved are bound to Pope Sisto IV's artistic sensibilities, but at the same time, the history preserved in the Vatican Secret Archives entwines itself with the history of Italy, of Europe and the entire world. This memorable exhibition making the unvisible visible is already creating great expectations, fuelled by the mysterious fascination that the Vatican Secret Archives generate in the collective imagination. All of the above will make Lux in arcana - The Vatican Secret Archives reveals itself an event of unprecedented scientific and media importance.
Buy a Ticket online