Irreverence Among the Reverent


Written on 4:45 PM by Jack B.

Article from the Financial Times by Toby Green, a researcher in Rome who got a peek in the Vatican Archives

Interesting Excerpt:

Nevertheless, secrecy always makes for intrigue. After the success of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, many people have an image of the Vatican's archive as filled with catches in the bookshelves revealing hidden corridors leading to the real secrets of Rome: sadly I have to report that the place is boringly normal, with helpful staff and even power points for laptops.

That doesn't mean that the "Secret Archive" - as it really is called - is a silent witness. What you do find here is a building which typifies Vatican paradoxes. It came as quite a shock when, stepping into a courtyard outside the study room, I heard the sounds of espresso machines and the tinkle of teaspoons on china; it was even more startling when I realised that the coffee shop I could hear occupied a medieval chapel.

Inside the chapel, the paradox unwound still further. The building was so ancient that the lines between the bricks had faded. Niches burrowed deep into the crumbling masonry; once they had stored religious iconography but today they were home to the workaday accessories of the coffee shops that litter Rome: in one, a couple of microwaves were stacked, while in the next were jars of nutella.

A priest dressed in black talked with an earnest researcher who was constantly checking her mobile phone. Customers were instructed by laminated signs on the walls not to take food or drink out into the courtyard - but it was OK smoke there. The coffee shop typified something that I slowly recognised during the days I spent in the Holy See: the Vatican is engaged in a constant struggle between the sacred and the profane.

I don't know about you but this sounds more interesting than anything a hack like Dan Brown could come up with. I'd love to spend just a day in the place.

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