The Vatican’s Apostolic Library is reopening to scholars following a three-year, €9-million ($11.5- million) renovation to install climate-controlled rooms for its precious manuscripts and state-of-the-art security measures to prevent theft and loss.
The library, started by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s, houses one of the world’s best collections of illuminated manuscripts. It includes the oldest known complete Bible, dating from about 325 and believed to have been one of the 50 bibles commissioned by Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman leader.
It reopens its frescoed halls to scholars Sept. 20. Library officials took pains to note that the renovation work was completed on time — a rarity in Italy but also an acknowledgment of the inconvenience the three-year closure caused many scholars who had to suspend their research while its collections of tens of thousands of volumes were in storage.
Cardinal Raffaele Farina, the Vatican’s chief librarian, thanked those researchers “who understood the reason for the closure.”
“Given the amount of what had to be done — the noise and the intrusiveness of the technical and construction work necessary — we decided the library inevitably had to close,” Farina told reporters Monday inside the frescoed Sistine Hall.
Some 4,000 to 5,000 scholars are given permission to conduct research in the library every year; access is generally restricted to academics conducting post-graduate level research. None of the items in the library can be checked out, and rules for working inside are strict: No pens, food or even mineral water are allowed in the manuscript reading room.
Researchers will now find improved communications and elevator access to the Vatican’s vast collections, as well as a new tower inside the Vatican’s Belvedere Courtyard to ferry manuscripts from their bomb-proof bunker to climate-controlled consultation rooms. Inside the bunker itself, fire-proof and dust proof floors and walls were installed to further protect the manuscripts.
By NICOLE WINFIELD (AP)