The Vatican Film Library was established on 16 November 1959 by Holy John XXIII with the objective of collecting and preserving films and recordings of television programmes on the life of the Church.
The archives contain around seven thousand catalogued titles, including historic films on the popes, Church events, commercial films of noteworthy interest and artistic value, and documentaries on current events. The works on film require special storage in climate controlled environments. They are kept in rooms where the temperature is maintained at 16° Celsius and 30% humidity.
Some of the special film titles in the archives include: “Leo XIII” made in 1896 on Lumière film, “Pius XI and Marconi” on the inauguration of Vatican Radio in 1931, “Pastor Angelicus” – a biography of Pius XII and “The Second Vatican Council”. Also noteworthy is “L’Inferno”, a film made in 1911 based on the work by Dante and produced by Helios Film of Velletri (Italy) in which modern special effects were used for the first time. This film is part of the “Joye Foundation” which consists of films going back to the beginnings of cinema. The collection has been entrusted to the Vatican Film Library by the Society of Jesus. Film historians originally believed that “L’Inferno” had been lost. Its discovery in the Vatican Film Library archives generated much interest in the film world. Thanks to the help of Bayer pharmaceutical company and of Cinecittà Holding, the film was restored and a special DVD produced for use in schools. The film has been and is still widely requested for cinematographic and cultural showings, including the Venice Film Festival and the New York Museum of Modern Art.
The Vatican Film Library has special equipment for viewing films and converting them to digital formats, in addition to a small laboratory where some of the first efforts of film restoration take place. Located at the offices of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican Film Library also has a movie hall which can seat around fifty persons. The hall was recently renovated and on 20 January 2005 was inaugurated in the presence of top officials of the Roman Curia and personalities of the film world. Films are regularly viewed here and sometimes special previews are arranged both for the personnel of the Roman Curia and the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.
The Vatican Film Library is working on a special project focusing on film and religion by studying productions from 1896 to today dealing with themes concerning the transcendent. The first volume of this filmography has already been published and the second volume is currently being prepared.
Another special initiative is the International Study Congress during the “Festival del Cinema Spirituale”, a festival focusing on films with spiritual themes, organized in collaboration with Italy’s Ente dello Spettacolo and the Pontifical Council for Culture. Now it its ninth edition, the Congress brings together top personalities from the fields of culture and film.
Vatican Film Library
Palazzo San Carlo
00120 Vatican City