Popes dating back to peter

In fact, this turns out not to be quite the case: there was one extremely big restriction in place.He wasn’t allowed to look at any documents that dated from after 1939.The reason given was that these include Papal annulments of marriages of people who might still be alive.It’s at this point that the keen conspiracy theorist throws up his or her hands and exclaims ‘Ha! What a coincidence that this should also cover the most sensitive periods in recent Vatican history: the Second World War and the continuing scandal of paedophile priests. Nine years ago, a joint plan by Jewish and Roman Catholic scholars ended amid acrimony with the Vatican refusing to allow the Jewish scholars further access to its archives – and the Jewish scholars protesting that the Vatican was plainly trying to cover something up.There are also letters from Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, St Bernadette, Voltaire and Abraham Lincoln.And here too – depending on how much faith you have in the novels of Dan Brown – lies proof that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and continued their own earthly line.On either side of this meridian line are various astrological and astronomical symbols, once used to try to calculate the effect of the wind upon the stars.But this is not the real reason why this man with the shabby trousers, the oddly distinguished-looking grey hair and the abundance of irrelevant detail has come to the Vatican.

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We want to show it as it really is.’ For three days Van den Heuvel was given the run of the archive with no restrictions placed on what he could inspect or photograph – or so he claims.Here in the Hall of the Meridian, a room covered in frescoes depicting the four winds, is a tiny hole high up in one of the walls.At midday, the sun, shining through the hole, falls along a white marble line set into the floor.But now the Vatican Secret Archive is secret no more.This story begins two years ago when a Belgian publisher called Paul Van den Heuvel asked a friend of his who works in the Vatican if there was any hope of his being allowed to do a book about the secret archive.

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