Despite all that the Catholic Church has revealed over the centuries, it still keeps some secrets. In fact, there may be a few stunning examples hidden in the church’s Vatican City-based archives. Religious relics are rumored to be among this incredible stockpile, along with centuries-old documents that highlight turning points in the history of mankind. And the following 20 artifacts are all among those alleged to have been stashed away – perhaps for good reason, too.
20. The letter that started the Protestant Reformation
Back in the 16th century, theologian Martin Luther didn’t agree with the way in which the Catholic Church promised its followers that they could ascend to heaven. At the time, you see, Catholics were told to purchase plenary indulgences in order to reduce the punishments that they and their loved ones would receive for their misdeeds. And in 1517 Luther made his opinions on the matter known when he penned the 95 Theses – his disputation of everything that the church had, in his eyes, wrongly presented to its disciples.
By sharing the 95 Theses, Luther inadvertently kicked off the Protestant Reformation – even though he still considered himself a member of the Catholic Church. However, in a letter that is now encapsulated within the Vatican vaults, the then-Pope Leo X responded to the German’s complaints with excommunication. And this move in turn left Luther able to start his own religion.
19. A potential link between Pope Pius XII and the Nazis
After Brown University historian David Kertzer had the chance to explore the Vatican archive, he was able to confirm some of the information contained within. Based on what Kertzer read, he could corroborate the claim that Pius XI had asked Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to protect Catholic interests in the country. In exchange, the Pope had promised to turn a blind eye to Mussolini’s anti-Semitic campaigns.
Pope Pius XII then took over from his predecessor in 1939, and it’s possible that he may have had links to the Nazis. Indeed, it’s rumored that the head of the Catholic Church had supported Hitler, much in the same way that Pius XI had vouched for Mussolini. Kertzer wondered, too, if the Vatican had hidden away the evidence in order to preserve the image of the religious institution. Even so, he noted that the staff there, as professionals in their field, seemingly treated history without bias.
18. The papal bull that split North America between Portugal and Spain
When Christopher Columbus pitched his journey around the world, King John II of Portugal didn’t think that he had plotted his route properly. Nevertheless, the explorer – buoyed by support from Spain’s Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand – made it to the New World and back. Following that succcessful trip, however, John II sprung into action. In particular, the monarch not only claimed that Columbus had contravened a treaty, but that Portugal was also entitled to some of the land that the adventurer had discovered.
Making matters even more difficult, Spain similarly laid claim to a portion of Columbus’ findings. In order to solve what could have become a major conflict, then, Pope Alexander VI stepped in by putting out a papal bull – a decree issued by the Catholic Church’s highest-ranking member. And through the order, the pontiff neatly divvied up the discovered land between the European countries.
17. Evidence of a predicted apocalypse
In 1917 three young cousins who worked as shepherds in Portugal claimed to have met the Virgin Mary on their countryside jaunts. And while legend has it that Mary entrusted the trio with three secrets, one of the clan, Lúcia Santos, ultimately revealed only two of these apparent messages in 1941. The third, she said, wasn’t ready to be shared.
Then, in 1943, a bishop demanded that Santos write down the last tidbit. And while the woman complied with this order, she nevertheless implored the church not to open the envelope in which she had sealed her words until 1960. Naturally, rumors have swirled ever since as to what the third secret could be. Some say, for instance, that it may have something to do with a nuclear holocaust or other impending disasters. Others, meanwhile, believe that Santos’ scribbles – which are contained in the Vatican vaults – reveal details about the apocalypse.
16. King Henry VIII’s annulment request from his first marriage
While still married to Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII of England had a long-standing extramarital relationship with Mary Boleyn, who may even have birthed two of his children. In time, though, the ruler became enamored with Mary’s sister, Anne. And as Anne declined to engage in an illicit affair with Henry, he somehow had to come up with a way to end his marriage so that he could have the object of his affection.
So, Henry’s solution was to send a petition – signed by 85 religious men and aristocrats – to Pope Clement VII. This document implored the Catholic leader to annul the king’s marriage, although the religious leader ultimately wasn’t swayed. Still, while the Pope may have denied the request, he apparently held onto the letter, as it still sits in the Vatican vaults today.
15. The Chronovisor
Before he died in 1992, Father Pellegrino Ernetti had apparently seen a lot. Rather unusually, the monk claimed to have caught a glimpse of Roman senator Cicero delivering a speech in 63 B.C.; he also allegedly witnessed visions of Jesus’ Last Supper and had seen orations by Napoleon. And according to Ernetti, he had witnessed all of these pivotal points in history using a device called a Chronovisor, which reportedly allowed him to look back on the past as though he were watching TV.
Ernetti’s friend François Brune didn’t listen when people tried to discredit the Chronovisor, either. Instead, he claimed that both Pope Pius XII and Mussolini deemed the device to be a danger to mankind, with the result being that it was ultimately destroyed. Nevertheless, some wonder if the Chronovisor still lies within the secret Vatican collection.
14. One of the final messages penned by Mary Queen of Scots
Despite having once been Scotland’s sovereign, Mary Queen of Scots had fallen far by the time she sent a letter to the Vatican. In 1566 she had wed her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley; less than a year on from the union, however, he lay dead in the couple’s garden. Then, when the widowed queen wed Henry’s suspected killer, James Hepburn, the fourth Earl of Bothwell, the public rose up against the pair – forcing Mary to flee to England.
Yet Mary’s cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England didn’t take too kindly to her visitor. That was especially true when she found out that Mary had been plotting to kill her in 1586. As she awaited execution, then, the Scottish queen reached out to Pope Sixtus V and pleaded to the religious leader to intervene. And as history proves, he didn’t step in, leaving Mary to die by beheading on February 8, 1587.
13. Notes on Galileo’s trial
During Galileo Galilei’s lifetime – which spanned both the 16th and 17th centuries – most people believed that the universe centered around Earth. The Bible seemed to confirm this theory, too, through passages claiming that our planet would never move. But, of course, the Italian-born astronomer thought differently. Instead, he suggested that Earth and the rest of the solar system actually orbited around the Sun.
Galileo’s findings ultimately landed him in the dock, where he had to defend his beliefs against those held by the Catholic Church. And while the scientist denied any wrongdoing, he nevertheless ended up on house arrest for the rest of his life, with the court also ruling that his teachings on heliocentrism could no longer be shared. Interestingly, though, the Vatican vaults do contain some notes taken at Galileo’s 1633 trial.
12. Alien skulls
Catholics don’t seem to have strong opinions about the idea that life exists on other planets. In fact, many accept the notion, as they believe that God has already shown himself to be endlessly creative – and such ingenuity may not have been saved solely for Earth.
Furthermore, the Vatican may have some further proof that the universe does indeed include aliens. Yes, some claim that the Catholic Church has hidden the skulls of otherworldly creatures. And, naturally, that type of evidence of extraterrestrial life would probably be more explosive than any UFO sighting.
11. A letter informing the Pope of a Swedish queen’s conversion
Queen Christina reigned over Sweden from 1632 until she decided to step down in 1654. And there were a number of reasons why the monarch may have decided to leave her prestigious position. For one thing, her over-the-top spending nearly brought the country to financial ruin. It’s recorded, too, that Christina also decided to abdicate after choosing to drop her Lutheran faith and become a Catholic.
Then, after accepting that she would leave her royal duties behind, Christina revealed this outcome in a letter to the Pope himself. Subsequently, the former monarch relocated to Rome, and she remains one of very few women to be buried at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The message she sent to the Pope, meanwhile, is still in the Vatican collection nearly 400 years later.
10. A letter requesting protection for missionaries in Tibet
The seventh Dalai Lama of Tibet acted as the country’s spiritual leader from 1720 to 1757. During part of that period, meanwhile, Pope Clement XII held the highest rank in the Catholic Church. And throughout his time in office, Clement XII earned himself a reputation for growing the papal purse. Indeed, he ultimately gathered enough funds to not only spruce up the Basilica di San Giovanni but to also build Rome’s famous Trevi Fountain.
So, although the two men lived worlds away from each other, the Dalai Lama reached out to Clement XII when Catholics in Tibet needed safeguarding. Namely, the spiritual leader requested security measures for a group of Franciscan missionaries who had traveled to his country. And the letter that he sent is still secreted within the Vatican’s vaults to this day.
9. Records of what the Illuminati will do next
In 1776 the Bavarian Illuminati formed partly in an attempt to help relinquish the hold that religious institutions had over the lives of everyday people. Notably, the group’s members also hoped to fight any corruption by state officials. And as a consequence, when Bavarian leader Charles Theodore caught wind of the Illuminati’s aims, he chose to make the organization illegal. Yet some say that the group continues to operate today – and that it still masterminds the events that make headlines worldwide.
For many years, conspiracy theories have also linked the Illuminati to the Catholic Church. It’s been claimed, for instance, that the secret organization recruits every single one of the church’s top personnel. And rumors persist that the Vatican has records of what the Illuminati believe will happen in the future.
8. The Chinon Parchment
From 1119 until 1312, the Knights Templar served as the Catholic Church’s military wing. But although the Templars spent much of their existence in public favor, they finally lost this backing following their participation in the Crusades. It hadn’t helped, you see, that the church had failed to hold onto some of the Holy Land.
And things only went from bad to worse for the Templars when France’s King Philip IV began arresting members and burning them at the stake. So, Pope Clement V responded to the king’s pressure by disbanding the order. This period of history is documented, too, by the Chinon Parchment, which chronicles the trials against the Templars on charges such as heresy and blasphemous behavior during the Crusades. Interestingly, though, the paper was only rediscovered in 2001, as it had been hidden in a box along with more nondescript documents in the Vatican Apostolic Archive.
7. The doctrine confirming that Mary immaculately conceived Jesus
In the Christian faith, original sin is said to stem from Adam and Eve and their decision to eat the Garden of Eden’s forbidden fruit. And according to the Catholic Church, that choice has had a ripple effect; now, humankind has a propensity for sinning. In fact, if you believe in the Immaculate Conception, only one woman throughout history is blameless: the Virgin Mary.
And while Catholics have long accepted that Mary is without sin, it wasn’t until 1854 that Pope Pius IX penned the papal bull – which remains within the Vatican archive – confirming the teaching. Owing to this decree, then, Catholics commemorate what’s known as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception each year on December 8.
6. Religious documents dear to the Essenes
Ancient philosophers have made record of the Essenes – a faction of Jews who apparently separated themselves from society at large. The Bible’s New Testament makes no mention of the group, however, and this has led some to believe that Essenes actually wrote the religious text. Indeed, many of their beliefs seem to actually align with the reported actions of Jesus himself. Apparently, the Essenes emphasized charity and goodwill as well as the significance of baptism.
Then, while sifting through the Vatican archive in 1923, bishop Edmond Bordeaux Szekely discovered an old document written in Aramaic – one that he claimed displayed the tenets of the Essenes. That said, no one else has reported such evidence. In fact, there’s not even any proof of Szekely’s visit to the vaults, and the manuscript’s existence is far from confirmed to this day.
5. A work-related complaint from Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni’s artistic influence was so monumental that he only needs to go by one name: Michelangelo. Indeed, he painted and sculpted in ways that forever changed the creation of Western art. And as a consequence, many consider Michelangelo to be the greatest artist of all time as well as a shining example of a “Renaissance man” – or someone who’s extremely talented in multiple areas.
Among some of Michelangelo’s most famous works, of course, are his paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which sits within the borders of Vatican City. And perhaps as a result of that commission, the artist seemed to have insider information about the conditions in the city-state. He therefore wrote a letter to the Pope to inform him that the Vatican’s on-site guards were about to quit, as they hadn’t received any money for three months. Even today, that message remains in the church’s vaults.
4. Potential details about Jesus’ bloodline
It may seem as though the Catholic Church knows every detail about Jesus’ life, but that’s not entirely the case. For instance, there’s little record of what Christ did from his childhood up until his early 30s, when he became a more prominent religious figure. As such, then, some people believe that Jesus had a family of his own before his eventual crucifixion.
If Jesus had children, moreover, then his bloodline still may be traceable today. A number of individuals even believe that the Vatican has more specific details of Christ’s family life hidden away. And as any information of this sort would be explosive for the church, it makes sense that it would be securely locked up – if indeed it actually exists, of course.
3. Letters from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis
As history shows, the American Civil War was principally the result of a geographical disagreement about slavery. While the country’s northern contingent was against the practice, the south wanted to continue it. And at the time the war began in April 1861, Abraham Lincoln led the Union with its abolitionist aims, while Jefferson Davis served as the Confederacy’s commander-in-chief.
As it turns out, though, both Lincoln and Davis wanted outside reassurance that they were doing the right thing. Consequently, both Civil War leaders wrote to Pope Pius IX requesting that he announce which side was in the right – the north or the south. And a response of sorts came as a result of the fact that the Pope never ultimately provided support to the Confederacy; instead, he pushed for emancipation alongside the Union.
2. Proof that Jesus wasn’t crucified
The crucifixion of Jesus stands as one of the most essential parts of the Bible and, therefore, the Catholic faith. Indeed, Christ’s death on the cross is seen to exemplify some of the religion’s most central tenets, such as atonement and salvation. Astonishingly, though, some believe that Jesus didn’t actually die in this manner – and that the Vatican has hidden the proof.
Archaeologist Michael Baigent, for one, suggested that Jesus and Pontius Pilate both faked the crucifixion. Killing the prophet wasn’t advisable for Pilate, you see, as Jesus encouraged his followers to pay their taxes. Instead, Baigent claimed that the governor helped simulate Christ’s death using a mixture of drugs before his body was removed from the tomb. The archaeologist felt that documentation of this plot existed, too, meaning it could be concealed within the Vatican collection.
1. The Pope’s letter that gave the green light for the Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade kicked off in 1202, when Christians from the West decided to move on Jerusalem. They couldn’t tackle the Muslim-ruled holy city right away, though; first, it was necessary to dismantle the Egyptian Ayyubid Sultanate, as it was the most powerful Islamic empire at the time. Yet the effort didn’t go as originally anticipated, and the Crusaders ended up taking down the Greek-held Constantinople instead.
Back in 1198, however, Pope Innocent III had issued the papal bull for a Fourth Crusade, demanding an offensive that would recapture the Holy Land from its Muslim leaders. Then, when the plan had ultimately gone off the rails, the Pope condemned the operation as a “work of Hell,” as the siege of Constantinople had been so violent. His original letter allowing for the Crusade remains in the vault, though.