Sorry to burst your bubble, Dan Brown & Co.
In any case, this doesn’t make the Vatican Archive necessarily boring. In fact, one might speak of it as a scholar’s Garden of Eden: in its shelves, the papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther can be found next to the complete 60-meters-long scroll with the minutes of the trials of the Knights Templar, letters from Michelangelo to Pope Julius II, the notes on the trial against Galileo, and even a letter from Pope Clement XII to the seventh Dalai Lama requiring protection for Franciscan friars in Tibet.
Once sacked by Napoleon — who moved the whole collection to Paris — the “Secret Archive” created by Pope Paul V in 1612 is indeed not that secret (as you can verify in the video above, or in this great photographic collection published by The Guardian in 2010). The place is constantly bursting with scholarly activity, which means you have to be an authorized scholar to gain access to the Archive (the credential needs to be renewed every six months), search through its catalogues (which will require fluency in either in Latin or Italian) to ask for the very specific document you want to work with and then, finally, take it with you to any of the reading rooms, in which you will be able to take notes, but never any photos (as any exposure to an accidental flash might deteriorate the manuscripts). But if you can’t make it to Rome, the Secret Archive is so secret (oh, the irony) that you can surf through it visiting its website.
Since you are here…
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