Vatican, 30th September 2017


Prot. N. 60.264


To the kind attention of the Researchers of the Vatican Secret Archives

Because of growing needs, indeed difficult to solve, it will be necessary to manage the accesses of Researchers to the Vatican Secret Archives according to a better and more sustainable system.

   Ever since Leo XIII, in 1881, granted the permission to Researchers from all over the world to study the documentary fonds of the Vatican Secret Archives, the number of requests to access them has continuously increased. We have passed from 10/12 Researchers per day in 1881 to about 40/45 per day in the Archives in the years between 1990/2000, reaching an average of 50/60 Researchers per day between the year 2000 and nowadays, reaching peaks of even 90-100 Scholars per day during May and June last year.

    Over the time, the Vatican Secret Archives managed to face the growing number of applications, notwithstanding the limited available sources. However, after several years there is the need to better regulate the application of the Researchers in order to offer them the proper assistance and ensure the usual additional services. Also, the current situation does not allow the Holy See to bear additional and higher expenses.  

    It is not just the actual and limited availability of the number of accesses for Researchers to the Archives, but also the preservation and protection of the precious documents that are consulted every day. Just think that the presence of an average of 50 Researchers a day in the Study Rooms requires the movement of about 250 archival units from the repository areas, and this over time inevitably involves a certain degree of deterioration. Also this latter aspect – the preservation and conservation of the documentary heritage – constitutes one of the key duties of the Vatican Archives.

   For these motivated reasons, beginning from next January 2018, a scheduling will be applied to the application requested from the Scholars of the Vatican Archives.

   Access to the Study Rooms of the Archives will be granted to a maximum of 60 Researchers per day. This number should be enough to meet the average number of applications the Prefecture currently receives, except for particular periods when we receive high numbers of applications; the latter will need to be organized according to a rotation schedule.

   The procedure to apply the Vatican Archives, which Researchers need to follow from January 2018 – according to the forms below – was developed to give all applicants the best possibility to study in the Archives in the period they request.

   Please consider that, according to the traditional will to provide a service to the culture that distinguishes the Vatican Secret Archives, in the last few years the Secretariat of this Prefecture has begun to provide a research service that individual Scholars or Institutions may request. Of course, these should be requests for simple archival information, or to check and verify archival references and documents, or limited researches, supported by reliable references, in the documentary series of the Vatican Secret Archives or on single documents. There are plans to further develop this service over time, to which the Archive Officials are, and will be, even more committed. Currently, the Secretariat of the Prefecture receives and carefully processes about 800 applications a year free of charge.

    These new provisions have the purpose to provide more and better services to Researchers who need to conduct studies at the Vatican Secret Archives, in an orderly manner and according to clear rules, in order to ensure the growing number of Scholars researching the Vatican sources to conduct their studies with ease and proper assistance, according to their envisaged plans.

   Confident in the understanding shown many times in the past by all the Scholars of Vatican Secret Archives, I send my warmest regards to each and everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ✠ Sergio Pagano, B.