The Archivio Apostolico Vaticano is the central archives of the Holy See and contains the historical archives of different private and public institutions sent to them because of their effective scope or because intentionally decided by the producer of the document. The various archives make up the over six hundred fonds of the Archivio Apostolico Vaticano and can be grouped into the following categories:
Offices of the Curia
- Historical archives of the oldest institutions of the Apostolic See, such as the Apostolic Chancery and the Apostolic Chamber, or abolished dicasteries, such as some including the Roman Congregations founded by Sixtus V, the Apostolic Dataria, the Congregation of the Consistory.
- Historical archives of the current Bodies of the Roman Curia. For example, the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Law Courts, Offices, Papal Councils and Papal Commissions.
- Historical archives of over 75 diplomatic representations of the Holy See – papal nunciatures and delegations - from all over the world and dating from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 20th century. Papal representations are required to send their own archives periodically to the Archivio Apostolico Vaticano.
Families and individuals
- Archives of aristocratic families having historical and traditional connections with the papal state that have been sent, donated or sold to the Archivio Apostolico Vaticano as from the last decades of the 19th century, to ease periods of financial hardship or to guarantee the safety of their documents in periods of political and social instability. For example: Arch. Boncompagni-Ludovisi, Arch. Borghese, Arch. Della Valle-Del Bufalo, Arch. Patrizi-Montoro, Arch. Ruspoli-Marescotti, Arch. Rospigliosi.
- Archives produced by one or more members of the same family in relation to posts held in the Papal Curia (Fondo Albani, Fondo Carpegna, Fondo Pio, etc.).
- Documents related to individuals that came to the Vatican for various reasons (Fondo Benigni, Carte Piastrelli).
Councils and synods
- Complete archives of the last two ecumenical Councils, the First and the Second Vatican Councils, and a large segment of the archives produced by the Council of Trent.
- Archives of some provincial or plenary councils, or local synods, such as the Roman Council of 1725 and the Synod of Pistoia held in 1786.
Religious institutes and orders and archconfraternities
- Archives of abbeys: Abbazia dei SS. Gregorio e Siro, Bologna, Abbazia delle Tre Fontane, Roma.
- Archives of convents: Convento di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Rome.
- Archives on monasteries: Monastero femminile agostiniano di Santa Marta, Rome.
- Archives of religious orders: Fondo Gesuiti, Fondo Domenicani, etc..
- Archives of Roman archconfraternities: Arciconfraternita del Gonfalone, Arciconfraternita del SS. Crocifisso in S. Marcello, etc..
- Collections created over the centuries by gathering together documents from different places or in function of old archiving system criteria: Instrumenta Miscellanea; Archivum Arcis, Armaria I-XVIII, etc..