What Makes the Vatican Secret Archives One of the World’s Most Secure Buildings?

Although most state archives are accessible to the public, the Vatican Secret Archives is positioned strictly in a fortress-like part of the Vatican. It has over 1,200 years of historical documents and manuscripts. The biggest factor that makes the archives secure is that these documents were completely out-of-bounds to anybody outside the inner circle of the Catholic Church before 1881. It also has an underground vault known as “The Bunker”, a version of which was reconstructed in the film Angels & Demons. Today, it is possible to request limited access. However, the process to get entry is among the severest anywhere in the world. Reporters, students, and amateur historians are prohibited from accessing the archives, and authorizations are only provided to academic researchers who have to renew their access requests every six months. The archives are only accessible to scholars once they are 75 years old. When authorized, academics enter the Vatican via a specific entry point that is secured by the Swiss Guard. They are ushered into the archives where they can access up to three pre-requested documents in a day. Another factor that makes the Vatican Secret Archives one of the world’s most secure buildings is that even though personal computers are permitted into the archives, photographing the content is prohibited. You will only see a few photographs of the 53 miles of archive shelving mainly because it is opened to researchers only.

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