From a fascinating articles three days ago in Forbes Life by Jim Dobson, Vatican For Sale: Very Wealthy Rent the Sistine Chapel, Dine with the Pope and Buy Secret Archives:
Beyond the Tower of Winds are rooms lined with 50 miles (roughly the length of the Panama Canal), filled with dark wooden shelves. Inside are hundreds of thousands of volumes (some almost two feet thick) filled with antiquated parchment. This is the Vatican secret archive, the most mysterious collection of documents in the world.
Among the historic documents are: Handwritten records of Galileo’s trial before the Inquisition; the 1530 petition from England’s House of Lords asking the Pope to annul Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon; letters from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis during the U.S. Civil War; the papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther, and letters from Michelangelo including one where he complained about not receiving payment for his work on the Sistine Chapel.
Some of the more controversial, and much argued theories about hidden documents include; documentation of the Jesus bloodline; secular historical proof of Jesus’s existence, with correspondence between Saint Paul and Emperor Nero; secular historical proof via the same correspondence that Jesus did not exist; and contemporary depictions of Jesus (formal portraits of Jesus made by people who actually saw and depicted him in real life).
Many historians and scholars have also hinted the Church has hidden the existence of various Biblical relics, either the relics themselves, or reliable documentation as to their whereabouts, including the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the True Cross, the truth about the Shroud of Turin, and many others.
Once, Napoleon had the whole of the secret archive transported to Paris. In 1817 it was eventually returned with countless documents missing. Private investors have speculated about what truly is available in the public sector, hidden for decades.
For now, the future of the Vatican is certainly changing forever. Many more opportunities will be unveiled in the coming year with fund raising efforts giving help to a lot of people less fortunate…. thanks to Pope Francis.