Archival Section


Archives and libraries have something specific and very noble in common: the study of manuscripts, i.e. of hand-written documents and books which make up the most important historical nuclei of the collections which are kept in both types of institution. This common element continuously creates points of contact between librarians and archivists; and there is no doubt that the most recent scientific developments in codicology on the one hand and in archive science on the other have brought these two disciplines so close together that one can, indeed must, speak (..) of an “archival approach to manuscripts”, whose object is the set of organic collections themselves which contain the manuscripts, inasmuch as these collections form unified complexes” (A. Petrucci, La descrizione del manoscritto. Storia, problemi modelli, Rome 1984).
The reasons for the frequent mixture of archives and manuscripts in a single collection are linked to the history of the individual collections. In some cases, it goes back to a bureaucratic conflict or, one might say, an irony of fate. It is well known that it is not at all rare for organic manuscript collections to have incorporated whole series of public documents relating to the political or religious activities of the the founder of the collection. The Vatican Library is very rich in documentary collections, despite the fact that its history is parallel to that of the Vatican Secret Archive (see P. Vian, “Frammenti e complessi documentari nella Biblioteca Vaticana”, in Archivi e archivistica a Roma dopo l’unità: genesi storica, ordinamenti e interrelazioni. Atti del Convegno, Roma 12-14 marzo 1990, pp. 404-441; L. Cacciaglia, “Archivi di famiglie nella Biblioteca Vaticana” ibid., pp. 380-403. In fact, the Vatican Library contains some of the most remarkable cases of documentary series incorporated into private libraries, e.g. the diplomatic correspondence in the Barberini collection; the documents of the monasteries of Southern Italy in the Chigi collection; the Greek and Latin documents which make up some of the manuscripts of the Vaticani Latini series; and the Introiti-Esiti collection, which is made up of the accounts of the Pontifical House and forms a complement to the rather larger collection which is kept in the Vatican Secret Archive.
It was not with the intention of separating the documentary material from the manuscripts belonging to the same collections that the Vatican Library came to create a separate Section for the collections which are more properly or even exclusively archival. Rather, it was curatorial and administrative concerns which led the Library, towards the end of the 1970’s, to create the Archival Section, which is now the definitive home of the great archives (or portions of great archives) which have come to the Library in various times and circumstances and for various reasons.

Archival collections are preserved today in the Archival Section; what follows is a quick survey of them.


(Barberini, Chigi, Incarnazione, Salviati, Colonna, Colonna di Sciarra, Ottoboni)

The first great archive to come to the Vatican Library was the Barberini Archives, which arrived in 1902 together with the Barberini collections of manuscripts and printed books. Besides the documents regarding the story of the family, it includes those which concern the many abbeys of which the Barberini were commendators; the papers of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Rome (known as the Monastero delle Barberine), and other collections relating to families which were closely linked to the Barberini through marriage or heredity, such as the Salviati, the Colonna di Sciarra, as well as a portion of the Colonna Archives (the other portion, belonging to the Paliano branch of the family, being preserved in the Colonna Archive in Subiaco), and the accounts books of Card. Pietro Ottoboni Jr. (d. 1740).
The diplomatic correspondence concerning the Secretariat of State during the pontificate of Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini) remains to this day in the manuscript collection.
In 1944, in order to protect it from wartime destruction, the Chigi Archive was brought to the Vatican Library. It consists of around 25,000 items from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, with some documents dating back as far as the twelfth century, and a collection of drawings by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The archive and the drawings were brought from the baronial palace of the Chigi in Ariccia, where they had been brought when Palazzo Chigi in Rome was sold to the Italian government. The manuscripts and the printed books had already come to the Library in 1922 as a donation from the Italian government to the Holy See.


(Capitolo di S. Pietro, S. Anastasia, S. Angelo in Pescheria, S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Maria in via Lata, S. Maria ad Martyres/Pantheon)

In 1940, according to the wishes of Pius XI (1922-1939) and of Pius XII (1939-1958), the Archive of the Chapter of St. Peter’s was transferred from the Basilica, where it had been kept since its beginnings, to the Vatican Library. It represents one of the most important documentary collections of the Library’s Archival Section, not only because of its size, but also because it documents the cultural, religious, artistic and architectural history of the Basilica and constitutes, as such, an indispensable complement to the Archive of the Fabbrica di S. Pietro. As in the family archives, besides the archival documents, there are manuscripts and printed books in the collection, which are kept separately. The properly archival portion of the collection is made up of a number of series, namely the Capsae (78 bound gatherings of parchments and papers, including documents dating back as far as the tenth century and, among them, the bull of Boniface VIII for the Jubilee Year 1300), Privilegi e atti notarili, Censuali, Registri dei mandati, Libri Mastri, Abbazie, Cappella Giulia, Catasti, Mappe dei beni urbani e rustici, and many others series which are linked to the administration of the land holdings of the canonical institution. Entire documentary collections from institutions connected to the Chapter have been incorporated, such as the archive of the Confraternity of S. Egidio, the papers of the Seminario Romano, and of the churches of S. Caterina della Rota and of S. Biagio a via Giulia. Together with the archive of the Chapter, the Library received also the papers of Msgr Angelo Costaguti (1755-1822), canon of St. Peter’s.
The Vatican Library also keeps archives or portions of archives from other Roman Basilicas. As is well known, most of the archives of the chapters of the Roman Basilicas are kept in the Archivio Storico del Vicariato, except for the archive of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, which is at the Archivio di Stato di Roma, and for those of S. Lorenzo in Damaso and of the Papal Basilicas, which have remained in the relevant churches. Those archives which are entirely or partially kept in the Vatican Library are the following: S. Anastasia (84 items concerning the accounts and administration of the basilica, ranging from 1559 to the end of the nineteenth century; the rest of the archive is in the Archivio Storico del Vicariato); S. Angelo in Pescheria (53 items which came to the Library when the parish was abolished in the early twentieth century); S. Maria in Cosmedin (220 items from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; a portion of similar size is in the Archivio del Vicariato); S. Maria in via Lata (984 parchments from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries, as well as 320 accounting and administrative documents from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; the rest is in the Archivio del Vicariato); S. Maria ad Martyres or Pantheon (135 items from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries which came to the Library at the beginning of the twentieth century; 344 more items are in the Vicariato).


This collection (447 numbers for a total of 452 paper volumes) includes the entire notarial archive of the Principality of Orange, as well as some registers of the notaries themselves, who worked also in the Comtat Venaissin (Avignon, Carpentras, Courthézon, Piolenc). All these documents are dated to between 1311 and 1557. They constitute a complete and extremely precious source for the reconstruction of the social history of Provence.
The collection was acquired by the Vatican Library in the first half of the twentieth century through an exchange with the Vatican Secret Archive, where it had been kept since it had been brought there together with the documents of the chancery of Avignon. Both collections - the chancery collection and the notarial one - came from the Papal archive of Avignon.


Federico Patetta (b. Cairo Montenotte, February 16, 1867, d. Alessandria, October 28, 1945) was a historian of Italian law, which he taught from 1892 to 1935 in the Universities of Macerata, Siena, Modena, Pisa, Turin and Rome. He gathered an immense quantity of autographs, manuscripts, parchments and printed books, which was divided into different parts upon his death.
The largest portion, made up of autographs, manuscripts and parchments, was donated by Patetta to the Vatican Library (Patetta was a friend of Contardo Ferrini; and since at least 1898 he had been corresponding with Giovanni Mercati, who was Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church at the time of the donation). The printed books were acquired by the University of Turin and placed in a special library named after Patetta in Palazzo Carignano. However, the books, documents and manuscripts relative to the history of Cairo Montenotte were placed in the archives of the parish of S. Lorenzo in Cairo Montenotte. The collection which came to the Vatican Library is now divided into four sections: Autografi e Documenti, Manoscritti, Pergamene and Raccolta Patetta.
Of these, only the Raccolta Patteta is kept in the Archival Section of the Library. This collection is made up of the 746 items which have not been assigned to one of the other three sections. It was created only in August 2006 and is not yet available for consultation, as it is still being organized. It is made up of those materials which were originally present in the "Autografi e documenti" section of Patetta's own collection and which, in 2006, had not yet been removed from it to join one of the Vatican Library's other "Patetta" shelf-mark series. As a result, it contains a certain number of series from the "Autografi e documenti" collection, more or less depleted by the process of removal to other series.


During the pontificate of Paul VI, the Church historian Michele Maccarrone, who was close to the leadership of the F.U.C.I., donated to the Vatican Library 52 containers with the personal archives of some of the leading members of the organization (Maria Teresa Balestrino, Maria Carena, Giampietro Dore, Angela Gotelli, Angelo Raffaele Jervolino, Anna Martino, Ugo Piazza, Giandomenico Pini, Igino Righetti). The material is not yet available for consultation.


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