Friday, January 7, 2011

Wandering the stacks of the Vatican Library

A recent issue of The New Yorker featured a piece about the Vatican Library, which you can read HERE. I must admit my attitude on said subject is tainted by Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code. I've figured the Vatican Library as impregnable as Fort Knox, and I've wondered what secrets are contained within that we'll never know about.

It turns out that the Vatican Library -- or "Vat" as it is known to scholars -- is a surprisingly open institution, though it was closed for three years to repair the building. Scholars from all over the world pour over the manuscripts and take breaks in a cafe just for them.

And, even more amazing, the Vat is on-line. Beginning in the 1990s, the Vatican librarians began digitizing the manuscripts. I spent some time this morning wandering through the Vatican stacks and I never left my favorite chair at home.

The website is a bit clunky (hey, this
is the Vatican) but it is maneuverable if you are dedicated. You can get there by clicking HERE. Not only that, but there really is something called The Vatican Secret Archives, and you can get inside on-line HERE.

I've put a few items from the Vat on the blog for you this morning just to tantalize you. The manuscript at the top is from the Concordat of Worms in 1122, and the other item is from one of Wolfgang Mozart's notebooks from 1770. I can't possibly read either of these items, but it is great to know they are there, and that the world's scholars have access to these irreplaceable manuscripts.

One of these days I'd love to go there for real. Until then, I'll enjoy my on-line visits.


shadowlands said...

From your post title, I thought you were actually in Rome, for a minute!!

'I've wondered what secrets are contained within that we'll never know about.'

None. 'Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.'Matt 10:26 and that's from the King James version aswell, cos I'm in an ecumenical mood and also the Archbishop (of Cantebury) suggested we start reading it, earlier in the week!

I popped across to your link but it's all in Italian? I'll investigate further. My second son is very much into Dan Brown.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Well, there probably are a few secrets still hidden in the vaults, and as the New Yorker piece points out, not everything is catalogued so it is a secret by default. But they are getting there.

Sorry you ended up in Italian. If you root around the homepage you'll find a link to an English version.

As for the AV (King James) I am not sure what Rowan is up to, but I rarely am on the same page with him. That said, I do have my trusty AV handy, and I still prefer the "swaddling clothes" version of the King James for Christmas.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

I've fixed the link to the Library so that you go first to a page that asks what language you'd like to navigate in. Have fun! This really is a great cruise through an amazing collection.

Vickie said...

There was a great show of Treasures from the Vatican at the Library of Congress a few years ago. What a thrill to actually see a 4th century manuscript of Virgil (the earliest, I believe)and the love letters of Anne Boleyn, as well as early manuscripts of the Bible.