The Vatican Apostolic Library is the official library of the Roman Catholic Church located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains 75,000 historical documents, 1.1 million printed books, and some 8,500 incunabula (ancient manuscripts). It is a research library for scholars of history, law, philosophy, science and theology and is open to anyone who can document their qualifications and research needs.
The Vatican Library was envisioned by Pope Nicholas V to be a place that would lure pilgrims and scholars alike to the Vatican City to facilitate its transformation. Nicolas wanted it to be a public library where humanist scholarship would flourish. His death prevented him from carrying out his plan, but his dream was fulfilled by his successor Pope Sixtus IV who founded it in 1475.
In March 2014, the Vatican Library began an initial four-year project of digitizing its collection of manuscripts, to be made available online. The Vatican Secret Archives, the central repository for all of the acts promulgated by the Holy See, were separated from the Vatican Library at the beginning of the 17th century. They contain another 150,000 items. The Vatican has begun to digitize the collection and information can be accessed on the Vatican Apostolic Library Website.
From January 15 to February 5 I will be in the Vatican Apostolic Library researching the lives of women in the early church and touring the catacombs and basilicas in Rome with students from Saint Mary’s College of California. The Vatican Apostolic Library allows access to three documents per day to scholars with special credentials. There is much I need to learn in a short time, and I ask you to pray for divine illumination as I strive to comprehend the twenty-two books and manuscripts I have requested to read.