02 March 2008

Italy: Inquisition documents displayed

The Vatican has placed Inquisition documents on display through March 16, at Rome's Central Risorgimento Museum. For centuries the archives of the Holy Office were secret, but opened to scholars in 1998.

Among the items:

-1611 Holy Office order instructing Inquisitors how to carry out their job and how to conduct themselves when not on official duties.

-1703 list of rules spells out a crackdown on Huguenots and heretics and those sheltering them. Huguenots were persecuted French Protestants.

-1599 edict targets game hunters, bird hunters and fishermen who were poaching at a Vatican estate south of Rome.

Most importantly for members of the tribe:

The Vatican once controlled the lives of Rome's ancient, tiny Jewish community. On display is a 19th century drawing indicating the Ghetto neighborhood where Jews were allowed to live, and the streets where they could have their stores.

There is also a collection of maps of Jewish settlements across Italy, which are among the oldest evidence of the ghettos.

The edicts and orders were printed on remarkably durable material made from recycled rags at a Vatican printing house.

Monsignor Alejandro Cifres is one of the exhibit curators and on the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office), which relied on reports from Dominicans, Franciscans and lay people, and a network of monitors.

Napoleon's forces carted off bundles of documents from the Holy Office, and after his early 1800s fall, the French government wanted to return the material but the cost of shipping was too high. Rome gave the order to burn much of it. However, documents from famous trials (such as Galileo) were saved. He was condemned for supporting Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Read more here.


  1. It´s a pitty the article is no longer avaiable on MacLeans webpage.
    Leonor Medeiros

  2. Hi, Leonor

    If you google "Inquisition documents display" or something similar, you'll find several links to other articles on the display.