Some of the most jealously guarded documents in the world will now be on display for the public.
To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Vatican archives in their current location, the Holy See is making 100 of their documents available for viewing in an exhibition titled “Lux in Arcana: The Vatican Secret Archives Revealed,” The Telegraph reports.
The exhibition, which began on Wednesday, will continue until September at Rome’s Capitoline Museums. Few of the documents on display have ever left the confines of the Vatican.
Among some of the documents on display will be a letter written by English nobles to Pope Clement VII in 1530, demanding King Henry VIII be allowed to divorce Catherine of Aragon in favour of Anne Boleyn; an 1887 letter from a Native American chieftain on a strip of bark, calling the Pope the “Grand Master of Prayers;” Galileo’s retraction of his heliocentric theories of the galaxy after being tried for heresy by the church in 1633; documents from the trials of the Knights Templar; the excommunication decree of Martin Luther; and the abdication deed of Queen Christina of Sweden, rumoured to be a hermaphrodite who gave up her throne in 1654 to convert to Catholicism and move to Rome.
These are only a fraction of the treasures the archive holds, but the 50 miles of shelves packed with the popes’ correspondences with everyone from Michelangelo, Voltaire, and the Borgias, to Mozart, Hitler, and Abraham Lincoln, are normally seen only by strictly vetted scholars.
The exhibit is designed to counter some of the myths perpetuated by works of fiction like Dan Brown’s ‘Angels and Demons’ (for example, the archive, with documents from as far back as the 8th century, is more a “maze of grey corridors with bare cement ceilings, winding staircases and sleepy scholars” than the high-tech steel bunker of secrets depicted in the novel and movie, according to the Guardian).
Watch a preview of the exhibit here:
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