Why is the Vatican Library so closely guarded?


The Vatican Library is one of the largest in the world. The total number of objects stored in it is over a million printed publications, 8,000 incunabula (first printed books of the 15th century), 70,000 ancient and medieval manuscripts, 200,000 maps and documents, 100,000 engravings, and many works of art. The total length of the library shelves is 85 kilometers.

The papal curia is very strict in selecting researchers who are allowed access to the library’s collections. You need to send a motivated request, what exactly you hope to find in it, and the directorate will decide whether the researcher is trustworthy enough to work there, whether he is going to damage the authority of the church. From all over the world, historians, archaeographers, linguists and other specialists send letters to the Vatican in order to obtain access to unique funds, but no more than 5,000 scientists receive permission annually. At the same time, no more than 150 specialists are allowed to work in the library at the same time, the rest have to wait for their turn.

It is estimated that at this rate, even assuming that all researchers will deal with different documents, it will take 1250 years to describe all the collections of the Vatican Library. The Vatican is clearly in no hurry to reveal its secrets. It seems that the papal curia itself does not really know everything that is stored there. From time to time she makes publications of some of the unique sources found there, but they are clearly not sensational.

There were attempts to steal from the Vatican library and individual torn pages, and entire manuscripts. Now, in addition to the symbolic Swiss guard, the library is protected by all the latest multi-level automated signaling.

The veil of secrecy and carefulness of protection, naturally, give rise to a lot of rumors about what secrets can be so guarded in the Vatican library. Its very origin is lost in the mists of time. Officially, it has existed since 1475, but in that year Pope Sixtus IV issued an order to put the book collections of the Vatican in order. It is obvious that they have been gathering since ancient times, perhaps from the very first centuries of Christianity in Rome.

Among the unique documents that are still considered lost to mankind, scientists hope sooner or later to find papyri and parchments of the ancient Library of Alexandria in the Vatican Library. It was a book treasury of the ancient world. It collected all the writings of the authors of ancient Greece, ancient Rome and the ancient Near East. The library was founded by the Egyptian kings from the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, who elevated the collection of books to the rank of state policy. Now most of the works of antiquity have been lost to us, and what has come down is mostly in the retellings of individual ancient authors. The Library of Alexandria burned several times, the last time during the capture of Egypt by the Arabs in the 7th century, after which it did not recover. It is assumed that copies or originals of many items in the Library of Alexandria could have been transported to Rome at different times.

Among the exotic assumptions about the contents of the Vatican Library, there are such that there are books of the Toltec Indians, allegedly containing information about the visit of the Earth by aliens, magical alchemical recipes for rejuvenation from Count Cagliostro, and even that the secret archives of the Vatican store evidence of the real history of mankind, now hidden from public eye. Like it or not, we are unlikely to find out soon.