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Whispers Of History: Behind The Walls Of The Secret Vatican Archives

Half a millennium ago, the Holy See established secret archives that today house millions of documents, including private papal records, meant to be protected both from the elements, and prying eyes. It is also a great resource for historians.

The Papal Swiss Guard, protecting the Vatican and its secrets since the 16th century (Bertrand Hauger)
The Papal Swiss Guard, protecting the Vatican and its secrets since the 16th century (Bertrand Hauger)

VATICAN CITY - Once I realized that I was not in the labyrinth of "The Name of the Rose," but in a place much like the library of the Physics department of the university where I'd spent many a frustrating afternoon, my excitement was downgraded to simple curiosity. The very polite and expert archivist added to that feeling when he told me precisely where we were.

The Vatican Secret Archives were founded exactly 500 years ago, in 1612 -- with Baldassarre Ansidei as its first archivist -- to guard documents which had been worn away by microorganisms and mold in the previous archives in Castel Sant'Angelo. But given that names are important, let's start with the word "secret." It comes from the Latin "secretum": that is secluded, and private. The archivist explained that the translation "secret" was not totally accurate.

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A man walks on a tank left behind by Russian troops, on display in Kyiv’s Mykhailivska Square.

Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Tuesday, which marks three months since the war in Ukraine started. Meanwhile, BoJo is in trouble again, and millionaires at Davos ask to be taxed more. Persian-language, London-based media Kayhan explores what the future of Lebanon could look like after the election defeat of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

[*Swedish]

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