Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Special Feature: The Vatican Library

The other day my husband and I were watching a History Channel program about aliens where they mentioned documents kept in the archives of the Vatican Library that allegedly talk about ancient people reporting UFO sightings. We casually joked about people trying to get their hands on these documents after watching this program, and I remembered Dan Brown's Robert Langdon almost suffocating to death in the depths of the library's Secret Archives. I haven't thought of the book in a long while, and much less about the library itself, but now I wondered about what's all stored there. In my wanderings around on the internet I found a CBS 60 Minutes segment about it from April of last year that made me wonder even more.
Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, the library contains approximately 2 million printed books and 80 thousand handwritten manuscripts in virtually every language known to man, a collection of ancient coins and so many other treasures that apparently nobody knows what exactly is there (sounds like they need a digital catalog). The contents of the library are the Pope's personal property and while scholars use the documents for their research only the Pope is allowed to borrow anything.
The Vatican Secret Archives is the central repository for all of the Holy See documents. In the 17th century, under the orders of Pope Paul V, the Secret Archives were separated from the Vatican Library, where scholars had some very limited access to them, and remained absolutely closed to outsiders until 1881, when Pope Leo XIII opened them to researchers, of whom now more than a thousand examine its documents each year. You might wonder why they're called "Secret" if everyone knows about them, and that would be because originally "secret" meant more "private" or "special" than "clandestine". Does have a nice ring to it though, doesn't it? I imagine if there are any UFO-related documents stored in Vatican they'd be hidden in the Secret Archives.
Last but not least, the Vatican Library is where any visitor can enjoy the beauty if the Sistine Chapel. The picture above shows only a part of it, can you imagine being able to see the whole every day? I wonder whether the scholars and archivists who work there every day are still amazed by the exquisite frescoes or if the novelty wears off eventually.
And now, if you have 12 minutes or so, here is the video I talked about in the beginning of this post. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you,I had 12 min, very interesting.