For the first time in history, 100 documents have been moved from the Vatican’s Secret Archives and are on display in Rome’s Capitoline Museums until September 12, 2012. Titled “Lux in Arcana” this unprecedented display includes artifacts and manuscripts dating back to the 8th Century. Henry VIII fans will be interested in a letter with official seals dangling pleading for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. A 197-feet-long parchment scroll is hung like a large roll of paper towels and partially unrolled to reveal about 20 feet of the trial of the Knights Templer in Paris from 1309 to 1311. One of the more surprising documents is a small birch bark letter written in 1887 by the Ojibwe tribe of Ontario, to Pope Leo XIII thanking him for sending them a bishop. The letter addresses the pope as “The Great Master of Prayer.” Contender for the scroll with the greatest affixation of seals – so many they look like a beat-up doormat – is a 1654 document from the Swedish Council approving the abdication of Queen Christina, who converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome. The papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the institution of the Julian Calendar, the trials of Galileo and Guido Bruno, and a letter from priests imprisoned in a Nazi death camp are among the wide range of writings demonstrating the intersection of history and the church around the world for more than a millennium. The 12 euro entrance fee also allows entrance into the Capitoline Museums, Rome’s most complete collection of art and artifacts.
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