Inside the Vatican Secret Archive
Those of you who know me well, know that I like to post about a new exhibit if not the day it opens, then at least that same week. As Lux in Arcana: The Vatican Secret Archives Revealed at the Capitoline Museums was the most highly anticipated exhibition of the year (century?) for me, it might be surprising that I have waited so long to write about it.
I have been preparing an article on the exhibit for the Traveller, the Sunday travel magazine of both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age and it has been published this weekend! Here's an excerpt:
Michelangelo's smudged signature, a secret papal messaging code, a 1200-year-old book and myriad blood-red papal seals, excommunication bulls, death warrants of heretics and letters written in desperation by condemned queens - these are some of the most precious documents in the world, kept for the past four centuries in impenetrable vaults in the Vatican. For the first - and perhaps only - time in history, 100 original documents have left the Vatican Secret Archives and been shifted across town for an exhibition that opened a fortnight ago in the Capitoline Museums in central Rome...
I hope you enjoy it! The online version of the article unfortunately has only one photo, so below are some of the best images of the exhibit.
These red penant seals (tied with red ribbon or "red tape", the origin of that expression) belonged to 81 separate members of the House of Lords. They are attached to a letter from King Henry VIII requesting Pope Clement VII to grant him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to enable him to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn.
Galileo's signature! These are the court proceedings of his trial for heresy following his vocal support for Copernicus' heliocentric theory.
A letter from Michelangelo begs the Bishop of Cesena to resume payment of the workers of St. Peter's after the death of Pope Paul III. The builders had remained on site to protect the precious building materials from theivery despite the fact that they were not being paid to do so.
A letter to the future Pope Celestine V informing him that he had been elected pope after 27 months of conclave at which he wasn't even present. The hermit priest reluctantly accepted, only to abdicate five years later. (During his papacy, he declared it the right of any pope to abdicate.) The letter is dated 11 July 1294.
This was one of the most exciting and bone-chilling exhibits: a 60 meter scroll of parchment with the depositions of 231 French Templar knights. During the Council of Vienne in 1311 they were forced to betray the order or face execution.
What I found so thrilling about this exhibit was that many of the documents on display pertain to events that we have all learned about, events that changed history and changed the world. Seeing the documents up close and personal brings history alive in a whole new way. In my eternal quest to travel in time, this was pretty close.
All images © Daniele Fregonese unless otherwise noted, and provided courtesy of Zètema Press Office and may not be reproduced.