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Who was the first Pope to be photographed? A look at the Vatican's Photographic Archive

2012-06-09

AMBROGIO PIAZZONI
Vatican's Apostolic Library

"The interest in this collection is fairly recent, but it's already quite large. It includes more than 100,000 photographs from the 1800 and 1900's.”

Now, the Vatican has published two books, that include key pictures from this collection. One of the books is titled "100 Images of the 19th Century.” The other is "The Papal Collection of Photographs.”

It includes pictures taken of the Vatican, but also pictures and postcards that people from all over the world would send to the Pope.

SANDRA PHILLIPS
'The Papal Collection of Photographs'

"The Pope was in the Vatican and he couldn't travel and even if he could, it was much more difficult than it is today, so the photograph was kind of a physical contact.”

The pictures and letters talked about wars, migrations. Others focused on lighter topics like local projects and the building of community churches. But eventually less and less pictures would arrive.

SANDRA PHILLIPS
'The Papal Collection of Photographs'

"The most interesting really stopped about the time of Mussolini. When Mussolini made his arrangement with the State of Italy to open up the Vatican to the world.”

The first Pope to have his picture  formally taken was Pius IX, back in 1845. In one of the books, there's also pictures of local Italian cities and famous sites.

ANNA MARIA VOLTAN
'100 Images of the 19th Century'

"It's a way to see how some Italian cities have changed over the years. It's a way to truly understand how it came to be. We can see the changes that have happened through the centuries.”

Anna Maria Voltan says it took her roughly three years to choose and research key pictures from the Vatican's archive. More than just a mere collection of pictures, she says these books are a window into history.


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