Vatican Secrets Revealed

Ann Natanson visits an exhibition in Rome that highlights the papacy’s interaction with major figures of European history.

Lux in Arcana in the Capitoline Museums in RomeA rare display of documents from the Vatican’s secret archives is currently on show in the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The documents span 12 centuries and four continents. This is the first and probably the last time that they will leave the Vatican.

The exhibition’s title, Lux in Arcana: The Vatican Secret Archives Reveals Itself, explains its purpose. In this case the word ‘secret’, in Latin, means private and describes the personal correspondence of popes, covering a range of subjects: pleas for help, bulls of condemnation, theological and terrestrial laws, correspondence with saints, sinners and world powers of the past. These documents were first kept in Castel Sant’Angelo. Since 1612 they have been held in the Vatican itself, where they now occupy 50 miles of temperature-controlled shelf space.

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