Reportage
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Vatican Secret Archives

A richly illustrated story about unknown pages of Catholic Church history

It was September 13, 2001. People throughout the world were still living the events that had occurred two days earlier, when Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. Barbara Frale, however, an Italian mediaevalist, had other matters on her mind, as she was carrying out an investigative search at the Vatican Secret Archives. She was poring over registers of Avignon documents from the time of Benedict XII, whose pontificate was from 1334 to 1342. She came across a parchment that was catalogued as a protocol of one of the many French Inquisition investigations in the diocese of Tours. She would probably not have paid much attention to it had she not noticed a name that was familiar to her: Bérenger Fredoli.

Frale was very familiar with this man’s biography. She immediately realised that she had no ordinary docu- ment before her. Bérenger Fredoli was one of the most influential Catholic hierarchs of the early 14th century: a French cardinal, the most outstanding canonist of his time, and a trusted associate – even nephew – of Pope Clement V, who sent him to various corners of the world on particularly delicate missions. What could such a per- son have possibly done during interrogations carried out by some provincial inquisitor in the diocese of Tours?

Frale looked at the bottom of the document. There were three seals on the parchment: one from Fredoli and two from other cardinals, Étienne de Suisy and Landolfo Brancaccio. Frale could not believe her eyes. She realised that she had found a seven- hundred-year-old document that historians had regarded as irretrievably lost, since it had been mistakenly catalogued in 1628 and again in 1912. It shed new light on the most notorious trial of the Middle Ages, particularly on the attitude of Pope Clement V, who, together with King Philip the Fair of France, was generally regarded as the main culprit in the dissolution of the Knights Templar and the execution of its leaders.

French historians certainly did not encounter this parchment at the beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon had the Vatican Secret Archives transported to Paris. Enlightenment anticlerical officials were particularly interested in the catalogues pertaining to the Knights Templar trial and the trial of Galileo Galilei. They expected to find confirmation of facts that would set the Holy See in an unfavourable light. The French kept the files on the Knights Templar trial even after the fall of Napoleon, the restoration of the monarchy, and a decree to return all documents to the Vatican, as they still hoped to find material compromising the papacy. Fr. Marino Marini, the chamberlain of the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, persuaded them to return the f iles, telling them that the publication of the complete dossier would tarnish not Pope Clement’s image, but King Philip’s.

Was Fr. Marino Marini bluffing in order to regain the files? The answer became evident when Bishop Sergio Pagano, the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, presented an over three-hundred-page publication, Processus Contra Templarios, at the Vatican Palace’s Aula Vecchia del Sinodo on 25 October, 2007. The publication contained the most important material concerning the Templars’ trial, including the Chinon Parchment, discovered by Barbara Frale.

Excerpt translated by Stan Kacsprzak

Reportage
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Vatican Secret Archives

A richly illustrated story about unknown pages of Catholic Church history

Publisher: Rosikon Press, Warszawa 2020
Translation rights: Rosikon Press, rights@rosikonpress.com, g.kasprzycka@rosikonpress.com
Foreign language translations: Slovenia, USA (Tajne archiwum watykańskie); other works by Górny and Rosikoń have been published in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, and Spain

‘There is no running away from history. It shapes our reality, and as time goes by, we become a part of it ourselves,’ this is how very seriously two Polish authors, a writer and a photographer, start their richly illustrated story about the Vatican archives. They are secret in name only, but not really, as the authors actually visited there. They were secret over a period of over a dozen centuries, when they accumulated large numbers of parchments, papyri, and later, paper documents. Generations of historians will make truly epoch-making discoveries there for a long time to come.

These discoveries, well described in this book by Grzegorz Górny and Janusz Rosikoń, are fascinating, though they often run counter to popular ideas about the “secrets of the Vatican”. The stereotypical views of the millions who consume mass culture are shaped by pop culture films. And these are often echoes of religious conflicts from centuries ago, when Protestants vilified the “papists”. In today’s world where it has rightly been recognised that prejudice and false stereotypes are a source of conflict and unnecessary confrontation, real knowledge is a preventive treatment for this kind of misfortune.

One can learn from Górny and Rosikoń’s book how many falsehoods and stereotypes have been wrapped around the history of events such as the Crusades, the trials of the Templars and Galileo, the Inquisition, and the Conquista. There are also more recent matters, which constantly arouse great emotions: the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and the attitude of Pope Pius XII toward the Holocaust.

In addition, this book is a pleasant remedy, because it is interestingly written and beautifully illustrated. The Vatican is one of the few places on the planet where for several centuries people could continuously accumulate the products of their minds and hands. And although wars did not bypass Rome, the institutional continuity of the Catholic Church saved a great number of works of human genius.

Piotr Gursztyn

Translated by Peter Obst

Learn more about other New Books from Poland

Selected samples

<
>
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło

69

Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
HKD
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_Horyzont
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda
Wojciech Kudyba
Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Bienczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Majewski
Weronika Murek
Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Swietek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
To the top

© 2021 The Polish Book Institute