The Vatican is a mysterious place, and there are a great many rumors about the contents of its famous Secret Archives. We’ve already told you about some of the strangest, creepiest things supposedly hidden away in this ultra-secure collection but it turns out, we were merely scratching the surface. Here are some more strange things that might be hidden in the Vatican.
Proof that Jesus existed (or didn’t exist)
Whether Jesus Christ existed or not is a common point of contention between the believers and the non-believers. However, some whisper that the Catholic church might already have an answer to this timeless question — and that said answer might lie within the confines of the Vatican’s Secret Archives.
We’ve already mentioned that some people think the Secret Archives might contain documentation of the bloodline of Jesus, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg: Some theories imply that the Vatican might also be sitting on definite secular proof that either verify Christ’s existence or proves that Jesus, or at least the version of him that’s described in the Bible, never existed. This evidence is thought to come from the original correspondence between Emperor Nero and Saint Paul.
Of course, if you believe that the theory is true and the Church really has such monumentally important letters at its disposal, the very fact that they keep them locked away in the Vatican’s vaults where no one can see them probably gives you a hint whether they verify or deny the existence of Jesus. After all, if they really had conclusive proof about the Catholic religion’s central figure, wouldn’t they be shouting about it on the rooftops?
All-important religious artifacts
There are many legendary artifacts associated with Judeo-Christian religions in general and Catholicism in particular. Of course, they’re generally considered to have been lost somewhere in the turmoils of history, and some of them may not even have existed in the first place. Or … is that really so?
Not according to some theories, which place virtually every religious artifact Indiana Jones has chased somewhere within the Vatican’s Secret Archives. The True Cross Jesus was crucified on? The Ark of the Covenant? The Holy Grail? The Crown of Thorns? It’s all there, some believe.
Of course, much of this particular theory hinges on the assumption that the Vatican is basically the Illuminati, spending all its time operating in total secret and hoarding historical artifacts for reasons known only to themselves. In reality, one can’t help but wonder what the Church would win by hiding many of the famed objects described by the Bible and various legends from people? You’d think they’d gain a lot more esteem if the Pope waltzed to his next Sunday Service holding the Holy Grail and a few pieces of the True Cross.
Designs of a strange flying machine
This is one thing we actually know the Vatican has in its archives — Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão’s place in the annals of early aviators is known, and his designs for an early 18th Century flying machine have even been on desplay at Lux in Arcana, a selection of exhibits from the Secret Archives that toured select museums in 2012. However, this doesn’t make the document any less peculiar.
Lourenço de Gusmão was a Brazilian priest who was fascinated by aviation and navigation. In 1709, he was staying in Lisbon when he witnessed his “apple dropped on Isaac Newton’s head” style epiphany when he saw the hot air near a candle flame make a soap bubble rise upwards.This caused him to create a series of increasingly public experiments, which culminated in the creation of the first lighter-than-air device: A small version of the hot-air balloon.
However, Lourenço de Gusmão was only beginning. His ultimate creation was a mysterious flying device, the designs of which are at the Vatican’s possession. The machine was known as “Passarola,” and it was a complex, bird-like structure full of tubes and bulges, unlike anything modern aeronautics have in store. After that, things get hazy. He may have built a full-sized version of the machine, and after it didn’t work as desired, went back to the drawing board and started experimenting with models. While he wasn’t without success, he seems to have eventually run afoul with the Inquisition, who unsurprisingly had views about flying men … and the fruits of his labor ended up in the Vatican’s Secret Archives.
All about the Illuminati
Ah, the Illuminati! They’re the be-all and end-all of virtually every self-respecting conspiracy theory out there, so it’s hardly a surprise that the Vatican has its share of theories featuring this purported cabal of shadow rulers who secretly pull everyone’s strings. Some suggest that the mysterious organization is secretly a huge fan of painstaking documentation, and the Vatican Secret Archives are home to all the details of their activities. (Unfortunately, this theory doesn’t say whether the Archives have room for any other material, what with the sheer volume of paperwork all the conspiracies the Illuminati is supposedly involved in must generate.) Many conspiracy enthusiasts take things even further and suggest that the Illuminati runs the Secret Archives.
A lot of this probably stems from a simple mistranslation. While the Archives are highly exclusive, there’s nothing “secret” about them — or at least, they don’t advertise the secrecy in the name. See, the Archives’ full name is Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum, and the “secretum” part doesn’t actually mean “secret” in a confidential sense at all. A closer translation would be “The Vatican’s personal archives,” or perhaps even “The Vatican’s private archives,” which is a lot less exciting than “secret archives,” which is basically a promise of an evil lair filled with forbidden knowledge.
Evidence of a female pope
Pope Joan, a female pope who allegedly sat on the Chair of St. Peter sometime around the year 855, is a touchy subject for the Catholic church despite the fact that some 500 historical texts specifically mention her. Joan is said to have escaped the era’s violence and poverty by disguising herself as a clergyman called John Anglicus — meaning “English John,” a hilarious con-man name in itself. She was adept and popular enough to climb the church ladder all the way to a cardinal’s position, and was eventually “the choice of all for pope.”
These were turbulent and violent times in Rome, and popes were literally hammered to death by ambitious clergymen. It’s hard to keep a female pope hidden from history even if she was playing the role of a man — especially since many texts mention that she was elected while she was pregnant, and actually had the child in the middle of her own papal progression. Many texts say both she and the child were killed. Some claim that she “was sent to a convent,” but the child eventually became a bishop. Regardless of the aftermath, the afterimage of a female pope lingered, with street names, Tarot cards and other odds and ends named after her. Or were they? Did she ever exist in the first place?
The church is not a fan of the Pope Joan story, and various scholars say it’s nothing more than a weird “Dark Ages urban legend” or a cautionary tale. There’s a theory that the mention of Pope Joan may have been snuck in some important manuscripts as a joke after the author’s death, and history kept repeating the lie. Still, while the former head of the Vatican Secret Archives has stated that there is “no evidence and no documentation” in the Archives of Pope Joan or Pope John Anglicus … which, of course, begs the question: Is there any evidence in the Archives that she didn’t exist, then? Or is there something they’re not telling us?
The last pope
Pope Francis isn’t exactly hidden in the Vatican. On the contrary, he’s easily the most visible person in the mini-country, and one of the most famous figures in the entire world. However, if you believe the Petrus Romanus Prophecy — also known as the Prophecy of the Popes — he’s also a herald of the end times. The prophecy was written in 1143 by the Archbishop of Armagh, who was visiting Pope Innocent II in Rome when he had a strange vision about “future popes” as a litany of mysterious phrases describing them. The Archbishop wrote the whole thing down, and it turns out that the last pope on the list — who the prophecy alleges is a sign of the end of days — is the one called “Petrus Romanus,” or Peter the Roman. His entry in the prophecy goes: “In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.” Ouch.
While it seems that the only thing connecting kindly old Francis to this mysterious Final Pope is the fact that he was once photographed with a lamb and may very well have stealthily fed treats to it, there’s also the fact that all the other entries have been matched with 111 popes that came before him. Still, it must be noted that in true prophecy style, the phrases are vague enough that pretty much anything can be made of them. For instance, John Paul II’s entry read “From the labor of the sun,” and Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI was simply “Glory of the olive.”
The true face of Christ
We all probably have an idea of what Jesus looked like, thanks to the literal millions of images featuring his visage — or, at least, the image of a white, bearded dude with a halo, dressed in immaculate robes. In reality, the biblical Jesus lived in Galilee, a mountainous region in Northern Israel, and was a carpenter by trade, so as the BBC notes, he would probably have looked a lot darker and scruffier than all those altar paintings would have you believe.
Of course, according to some, there’s no point in speculation, because the Vatican (or at least Vatican higher-ups with sufficient security clearing) is fully aware of what Jesus looked like. There’s a theory that the Vatican’s Secret Archives may contain several “contemporary depictions of Jesus,” which means formal portraits painted by the people who met him in real life.
Then again, it must be noted that judging by the art of the Jewish communities in that rough time period, it seems pretty unlikely that anyone would have been able to make a Renaissance-quality portrait of Jesus.
The mysterious bones of St. Peter
One of the Vatican’s most enduring mysteries — at least of the precious few ones that aren’t related to the Secret Archives — is the discovery of St. Peter’s bones. The nine pieces of bone the Vatican presents as those of the First Apostle were found in 1939 from a necropolis under St. Peter’s namesake basilica, resting in an unceremonious shoe box. While this may seem like a dubious place to waylay the bones of the guy who actually has the Vatican’s famous church made after him, the church certainly seems invested in them. In 2013, Pope Francis even presented the supposed bones of the first pope to the public in a Sunday service that included a segment where he prayed before them.
The story goes that a worker at the basilica had been given what remained inside a casket with the inscription “Petros Eni” (Greek for “Peter is Here”). The worker then dumped them in the infamous shoe box and stored them in a cupboard. Decades later, a scholar of Greek antiquities called Margherita Guarducci discovered the story and informed Pope Paul VI.
Interestingly, all popes have avoided outright stating on record that the bones are one hundred percent those of St. Peter. The closest to a “yeah, they’re legit” that we’ve gotten came in 1968, when Paul VI stated that the bones had been “identified in a way that we can consider convincing.” However, many archaeologists disagree, which isn’t exactly helped by the fact that none of the popes has let experts take the bones through a proper study. Why? Oh, because of a supposed 1,000-year-old curse that supposedly falls on all who disturb “the peace of St. Peter’s tomb.”