Vatican archive invites Turkish researchers
ISTANBUL – Anadolu AgencyFrench archbishop and Vatican librarian Jean-Louis Brugues was in Istanbul on Feb. 9 as part of a conference called “Vatican Library and Secret Archive” at Mimar Sinan University, following a 10-month-long dispute between Ankara and the Vatican over Pope Francis’ Armenian remarks.
Last week Turkey announced a decision to return its ambassador to the Vatican, Mehmet Paçacı, nearly 10 months after withdrawing him in protest at Pope Francis’ description of the killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Burgues was invited by Istanbul-based cultural institution the New East Foundation and spoke to a crowd of academics and students, saying the Vatican Library worked in the service of all of humanity.
“When I took the mission, Pope Benedict XVI said ‘I trust you [with] the treasure of the church, but it does not only belong to the church, but also to all of humanity,’” he said.
Burgues said all popes in the Vatican had kept important historical documents in medium-sized furniture, adding, “For example the articles about martyrs, written documents about international relations and other important documents were kept in this furniture. The oldest written documents we have are from the 3rd century. The archive collection was made in the 17th century and we called them ‘secret archives.’ This word ‘secret’ made many writers think of different things. For example, Dan Brown made so much money with a novel, but in fact, he has never visited the archives. This writer thinks that the church has very important secrets about the universe and these secrets are being kept. Actually, this word ‘secret’ means the documents that [only] the Pope can reach.”
He said that during their travels, the popes were able to take the archive with them, and some parts of those archives were lost during these travels.
“I have to confess that the archives were damaged the most by the French. When Napoleon invaded Rome, he took all of the Vatican’s archive to Paris. Later on, he was asked to bring [it] back to Rome. This archive had one of the world’s richest medallion collections. Bronze medallions and some silver medallions came back but the gold ones never came. The French government could not explain where these gold medallions went,” said Brugues.
The world’s richest archive
Brugues claimed the Vatican archive was the world’s richest.
“We have 87 kilometers of bookshelves; that means millions of documents. There are big halls that keep documents that have not been catalogued yet. If young people who are interested in the archive business want to support us to build these catalogues, I would be very happy. We have an eight-story palace but it was not enough, so we started digging under the ground floors and built three stories underground. The architects of the Vatican told us not to dig anymore otherwise the basilica could be damaged. Then we made a shelter underground and keep the most valuable documents there. This shelter can protect the documents even against an atomic bomb,” he said.
The archive includes very important documents such as the diploma of the German emperor from 862, a document from Mongolia dated 1246, the seals of all English parliamentarians and the document that requested the Pope to cancel the marriage of Henry VIII, said Brugues. “The Vatican archive library is open to all the world’s researchers whatever their religion, faith or culture,” he said, adding, “Last year 1,200 researchers from 50 countries visited the archives. This is not the world’s largest library; the Paris, London and Washington libraries are largest but in terms of manuscripts, it is the richest one. The library also has 80,000 old manuscripts and the first editions of some 900 books.”
English not enough
New East Foundation consultant and researcher Dr. Rinaldo Marmara also made a speech on Turkey-Vatican diplomatic relations.
He noted the Vatican archive had documents which could shed light on Turkish history, such as remarkable writings between Ottoman sultans and the popes or kings of the time.
“The secret archives of the Vatican have manuscripts about Istanbul as well as nearly 500 Ottoman manuscripts, which are kept in five different sections of the library,” he said, warning that English was not enough for researchers to study documents about language, especially those related to Turkey.