History enthusiasts and Da Vinci Code fans rejoice – Belgian publisher VdH Books has released a 252-page volume filled with photographs of restricted texts from the depths of the Vatican’s mysterious archives. The Vatican Secret Archives, created with the aid of seventeenth Archivist Cardinal Raeffaele Farina, contains over 100 documents accompanied by detailed historical commentary and beautiful full-page photographs of the Secret Archives’ rooms, a labyrinth with over 52 miles of bookshelves as well as reading rooms and preservation labs.
The book republishes correspondence between the Holy See and such illustrious figures as Michelangelo, Voltaire, Queen Elizabeth I, the Dalai Lama and Abraham Lincoln; documents from the trials of the Knights Templar and Galileo; the excommunication of Martin Luther; and Henry VIII’s attempt to get permission to divorce Catherine of Aragon in favor of Anne Boleyn.
The Vatican Secret Archives also contains the draft of a strongly-worded letter from Pope Pius XI to Hitler in 1934.
Entry to the Archives is only granted to accredited researchers who complete an application process (about 1500 scholars annually) so this book is the first time the public can get a glimpse into the legendary home of the papal record repository, which contains documents dating back to the eighth century.
The shadowy photographs bring readers through the wood paneled rooms, art-adorned doorways and cavernous storage spaces, including areas that remain locked to visiting scholars.
Referred to as an “editorial event” by Cardinal Farina in his foreword, The Vatican Secret Archives is a chill-inducing look into history and the Vatican’s role in shaping the world.
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There is a very limited release of two series of collectors’ editions, with 50 copies per language available of the first series and only 33 handbound, made-to-order copies available of the second.
Photo by James L. Stanfield