Vatican reveals secret 1,000-year-old archive of letters
Published 02/01/2010 | 05:00
A letter from Genghis Khan's grandson demanding homage from the Pope is among a collection of documents from the Vatican's secret archives that has been published for the first time.
The Holy See's archives contain scrolls, parchments and leather-bound volumes with correspondence dating back more than 1,000 years.
High-quality reproductions of 105 documents, 19 of which have never been seen before in public, have now been published in a book. The archives features a papal letter to Hitler, an entreaty to Rome written on birch bark by a tribe of North American Indians, and a plea from Mary Queen of Scots.
The book documents the Roman Catholic Church's often hostile dealings with the world of science and the arts, including documents from the heresy trial against Galileo and correspondence exchanged with Erasmus, Voltaire and Mozart. It also reveals the Church's relations with princes and potentates in countries far beyond its dominion.
In a letter dated 1246 from Grand Khan Guyuk to Pope Innocent IV, Genghis Khan's grandson demands that the pontiff travel to central Asia in person -- with all of his "kings" in tow -- to "pay service and homage to us" as an act of "submission", threatening that otherwise "you shall be our enemy". Although scholars have had access to the archives since 1881, they remain closed to the general public. (© Daily Telegraph, London)