4TH CENTENARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE VATICAN SECRET ARCHIVES

4TH CENTENARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE VATICAN SECRET ARCHIVES  

Pope Paul V founded the “Novum Archivum” four hundred years ago in the Apostolic Palace with the intent of keeping and preserving the records of the popes and the Holy See. On 31 January 1612 he appointed Baldassarre Ansidei custodian. This date marked the official beginning of the history of the Vatican Secret Archives. In 1630 Urban VIII authorized the autonomy of the Apostolic Library which up until then represented little more than a department. During the middle of the 17th century the qualification “secretum” was first used, not in the sense of “secret”, but meaning rather the private archive of the Roman Pontiff, who exercised firsthand supreme and exclusive jurisdiction over it. The patrimony of the archives covers around twelve centuries (8th  20th centuries) and numbers more than 600 archival fonds (the grouping of documentation produced and accumulated from the same source). The archives came directly from the popes, nunciatures, dicasteries of the Roman Curia, famous people, noble families, religious institutes, and so forth, creating a total of 85 linear km of shelving (including 43 in a new area below the Cortile della Pigna created by Paul VI and inaugurated in 1980 by blessed John Paul II). In 1881 Pope Leo XIII opened the Archives to scholars of all nations and faiths, in addition to approving the new regulations (1884) which established the competencies of personnel and rules for accessing and consulting the documents. Today the Vatican Secret Archives is one of the most important and famous centers of historical research in the world with a patrimony not only for the universal Church, but for all humanity.