The Vatican Secret Archives (a little opening)

Share

More treasures from the Vatican Secret Archives have been revealed:

“…Other letters in the archive are more personal. In a 1550 note, Michelangelo demands payment from the papacy which was three months late, and complains that a papal conclave had interrupted his work on the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.

A yellowed parchment covered in neat black script reveals details of the 14th century trials of the Knights Templar on suspicion of heresy, after which members of the warrior-monk order were pardoned by Pope Clement V.

Some of the documents are already well-known, including a parchment letter written by English peers to Pope Clement VII in 1530, calling for Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be annulled.

An entreaty written to Rome by another British monarch, but in very different circumstances, is also reproduced in exquisite detail. In 1586 Mary, Queen of Scots, wrote from Fotheringay in Northants to Pope Sixtus V, a few months before she was beheaded for plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, pledging her eternal allegiance to Rome.

The document includes letters written to Hitler by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and one received by his controversial successor, Pius XII, from Japan’s Emperor Hirohito.

“An aura of mystery has always surrounded this important cultural institution of the Holy See due to the allusions to inaccessible secrets thanks to its very name, as well as to the publicity it has always enjoyed in literature and in the media,” Cardinal Raffaele Farina, a Vatican archivist, writes in the preface to the book, which was produced by a Belgian publisher, VdH Books.

One of the most unusual documents is a letter written on birch bark in 1887 by the Ojibwe Indians of Ontario, Canada, to Pope Leo XIII. The letter, written in May but datelined “where there is much grass, in the month of the flowers”, addresses the pontiff as “the Great Master of Prayer” and offers thanks to the Vatican for having sent a “custodian of prayer” (a bishop) to preach to them….”

Share