January 31, 2012. (Romereports.com)
Within the walls of Vatican City is stored one of the most important treasures in the world, the Vatican's Secret Archives.
Only a limited number of people can access documents kept here by the Catholic Church. It's free to gain access, but only academics and historians are allowed and they must request authorization from the Vatican.
The Vatican Secret Archives began under Pope Paul V. It was officially opened 400 years ago on January 31 in 1612. It's called “secret” from its Latin name “secretum” meaning “private”. Since it opened, it's become the private archive of the popes.
In 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte took over 3,000 documents to Paris. After his fall from power, the files over time made their way back to the Vatican. Although during these transfers, many valuable documents were lost, some of which were from the fifth century.
Today, 400 years after its creation, the archive has over 50 miles of shelving, filled with books, papal bulls, decrees and encyclicals that cover twelve centuries of history. Among its corridors, one can find documents like the parchment of acquittal of Clement V to the Templars, from August of the year 1308, and details from the trial of Galileo, as well as the request for a marriage annulment by England's King Henry VIII.
To celebrate it's 400th anniversary, the exhibition “Lux in Arcana” has been created. From March to September, visitors to Rome can find 100 documents from the Vatican's Secret Archives on display in the Capitoline Museums.