Secrets The Vatican Doesn’t Want You To Know
Here are some dark secrets the Vatican doesn't want you to know!Secrets
The Vatican is the smallest country in the world and is the heart of one of the biggest religions on the planet. The Holy City only covers 121 acres, that’s just 14% of New York’s Central Park, and contains a tiny population of around 800 people! But it’s here religious legacies such as the beautiful St Peter’s Basilica can be found, making it a spiritual center for Roman Catholicism.
But for all the prayers and blessings, the walls of this city also hold a hoard of sinister secrets. From forbidden archives to sacred scams, let's explore some dark secrets of The Vatican that the Pope would rather stay hidden!
Vatican's Secret Archives
The Catholic Church is one of the oldest institutions in the Western world, with origins dating back over 2000 years! And in that time, it’s collected several centuries' worth of documents! However, these documents are not open to the public, instead, they are kept in a mysterious vault known as the Vatican’s Secret Archives.
It’s a huge storage space adjacent to the Vatican Library containing 35,000 volumes of catalogs and 53 miles of shelving! Tom Hanks is probably glad he didn’t have to sprint down that endless hallway while shooting The Da Vinci Code!
But even Tom Hanks is forbidden to enter, as these archives are only accessible to scholars once they are 75 years old. Given the average life expectancy ranges between 81 to 83 years of age here, that only offers an exceptionally narrow window for academic study, given that PhDs can take years to complete.
Though some hardworking scholars have managed to successfully unearth some incredible documents from the archives. Such as a letter from Mary Queen of Scots, who, after being forced to abdicate her throne, was sentenced to death. Mary wrote to Pope Sixtus the Fifth, begging for aid, but the Pope ignored her letter entirely. Mary was then famously beheaded on February 8, 1587.
The Secret Archives also contain a document that literally changed the course of European history! It’s the official excommunication of Martin Luther, the German priest who divided Europe with his 95 Theses and created the Protestant division of Christianity! The Vatican keeps more receipts of its exes than Taylor Swift.
And it’s the Vatican’s receipt keeping that calls for the strict security and privacy of the archives. They’re designed to house the Holy See’s official paperwork, along with any of the Pope’s correspondence with other official figures. And there remain literal miles of the archives yet to be explored.
With all this mystery, conspiracy theories about what’s really lurking in them have bred like rats. Some people claim that the Vatican may be concealing evidence of UFOs down here! And that they even have a secret stash of alien skulls! These conspiracy flames were fueled in October 2007 when a series of images were captured that appeared to depict a strange orange disc flying over St Peter’s Basilica!
Unfortunately, this bright orange flying saucer is most likely sunlight reflecting off a plane, or good old-fashioned Photoshop! So, while there’s no concrete evidence that aliens ever touched down in The Vatican, the many miles of unexplored archives means we can’t completely rule out any extra-terrestrial contact of the holy kind!
In the past, the papacy has held grudges that can extend into the afterlife. In a battle between popes, Pope Stephen the Sixth put the dead body of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, on trial!
This is a morbid tale of history that the Catholic Church would prefer you didn’t know about, as it reveals the Vatican’s very violent past. This papal prosecution was known as the Cadaver Synod, which literally translates to the Corpse Trial, and took place over 1000 years ago back in 897.
Pope Formosus had only been in the ground for seven months when he was unceremoniously dug up. His body was then dressed in ecclesiastical robes and propped up on the papal throne to be put on trial! Aware that dead people aren’t exactly talkative, a priest was appointed to speak on Pope Formosus’ behalf.
But why on earth Pope Stephen the Sixth was doing this? The official reason is that Pope Formosus was charged with the crime of violating church law, as he had served as Bishop of Rome while still the bishop of a different diocese, which is an area controlled by a bishop. But the real reason for this whacky power play was even crazier; it was a political stunt.
Back in those days, the papacy possessed heavyweight political power. Only the Pope could appoint the Holy Roman Emperor, one of the most powerful positions in Europe at the time The Holy Roman Emperor ruled over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, as well as regions of present-day France and Italy. And the person appointed to be Emperor was something bitterly fought over by rival factions.
Pope Formosus personally supported Arnuf of Carinthia. However, the candidate he was reluctantly forced to crown as Emperor was Lambert, son of the Duke of Spoleto. The Spoleto family was incredibly influential and held strong ties to the then Cardinal Stephen.
But then Pope Formosus turned the tables, by inviting Arnuf of Carinthia to invade Italy. Arnuf successfully deposed Lambert and Pope Formosus wasted no time in appointing him as the new Holy Roman Emperor.
This bitter betrayal stung Cardinal Stephen and the Spoleto Family. And once Pope Stephen the Sixth rose to power, they wasted no time in getting their revenge by putting Pope Formosus’ corpse on trial! He was declared guilty of crimes against the church, and all his acts as Pope were declared null and void.
Following that, the corpse was then stripped of all its rich garments and dressed in rags – even the three fingers he had used for blessings were cut off! Finally, the body was cast into the Tiber River, the place where you threw anything you wanted to permanently exile from society.
But Stephen’s petty revenge didn’t last long either. As only a year and a half later, he was imprisoned and executed! Who knew the Papacy could be more dramatic than Game of Thrones? George R.R. Martin better start taking notes!
Half a million people reportedly seek exorcisms every year in Italy alone! Though this is a practice that remains deeply controversial amongst medical professionals. Despite expert warnings, the Catholic Church fully endorses exorcisms, which means evicting “demons” from a person’s body through the power of prayer.
The Vatican even runs its own exorcism school! Every year, 250 priests from 50 countries arrive in Rome to learn how to identify demonic possession and how to perform the exorcism ritual.
The late specialist was one priest known as Gabriele Amorth, who acted as the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican. And during his tenure at the ministry performed over 160,000 exorcisms by 2013! He was ordained in 1954. So, 59 years until 2013, that means he would have had to perform more than 7 exorcisms every single day of his 59-year career!
To account for that insanely high number, Amorth believed that a person may be possessed by multiple demons at once. Sometimes numbering in the thousands! The man sure does look like he’s stared into the face of hell.
However, there is a dark side to exorcisms, one the Vatican church tries to hide. Some of the described symptoms of demonic possession are depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior, hearing voices, or seizures. All of which can also be the cause of undiagnosed mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, or a brain disorder like epilepsy.
What’s more, people are like sponges. We’re receptive to the cultural influences we’re raised in. So, someone suffering from schizophrenia raised in a Catholic household may suffer from hallucinations that revolve around religion. During a psychotic episode, they may think they hear the voice of Satan or believe they are the devil!
And in such a case, those around them might make the mistake of calling for an exorcist rather than a doctor! Not only does this prevent the person from getting medical treatment, but it can also make their symptoms worse. Because sometimes, exorcisms involve the use of drugs or fasting, which can induce sickness and stress, scientifically proven to harm brain function.
And over the past decade, several people have even perished after having exorcisms performed! In 2009, a woman in Fort Wayne, Indiana, attempted to exorcise 5 children by making them drink vinegar and olive oil, before restraining them for an exorcism. But tragically, one did not survive the process, and the mother was sentenced to 61 years in prison.
Aware of this issue, in 1999 the Catholic Church released its first major update to the rules surrounding exorcism since 1614, distinguishing between demonic possession and physical or psychological illness. And many practicing priests today are aware of the importance of having someone psychologically assessed, before performing an exorcism.
In addition, some exorcist advocates argue that for deeply religious people, performing an exorcism can be a cathartic process, making them more receptive to receiving medical treatment afterward. But if you ever find someone crawling on the ceiling, you should be speed-dialing the local priest!
What Angels Really Look Like, According to the Bible
A glittery figurine, clad in a flowing white dress with golden wings, is the image that most of us probably picture when we think of an angel. At least that’s what the Vatican would like you to believe. As it happens, biblically accurate angels are a whole lot stranger and scarier!
Take Cherubs, for example, those chubby baby angels with little wings. Except, this version of a cherub is nothing like how they are described in the bible. Rather it’s based on the Roman and Greek idea of the god of love, Cupid. According to the prophet Ezekiel’s vision a cherub has four faces: a lion, ox, an eagle, and a human! They have four wings and hoofed feet like polished brass.
Ezekiel’s other descriptions of angels include: “a wheel within a wheel, each of their four rims were filled with eyes all around.” Now it makes a whole lot more sense why when the first angel appeared to Joseph, it said “do not be afraid” before encouraging him to take Mary as his wife.
Joseph must have been a super chill dude, as most wouldn't want to take relationship advice from a creature straight out of a Lovecraftian nightmare! It's only in the later scriptures of Daniel and Genesis, that the angels are described as something that appeared to be altogether more human.
Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church has chosen to advertise the human-like appearance of angels rather than these hellish lookalikes.
If you’re wondering where the prophet Ezekiel’s crazy ideas came from, some modern scholars believe that early Christians may have been under the influence of psychoactive herbs and mushrooms! Which, considering the psychedelic beings they were seeing, makes a whole lot more sense!
However, any links between Christianity and psychoactive influences are another secret the Vatican prefers to keep under wraps, as they have maintained a strict anti-drug policy for centuries. The only green herb the Pope approves of is mistletoe at Christmas!
Chronovisor: Vatican's Time Travel Machine
If you had the choice, would you rather time travel to the future or the past? I’d choose the past. After all, they say that hindsight is 20/20! And it certainly is when you have the Vatican’s time-traveling glasses! These Time Travelling Glasses, also known as the Chronovisor, is a device that may just be the Vatican’s best-kept secret.
It was said to have been invented in the 1950s by a team of Italian scientists. One of which was Physics Nobel Prize Winner, Enrico Fermi. Another of the scientists, known as Pellegrino Ernetti, inform the public of the device’s existence.
The description of the device itself is rather vague, though Ernetti has stated it’s constructed of three precious alloys, along with several cathodes, dials, and levers, with a screen and a recording device.
The Chronovisor was ingeniously engineered to act as a sort of time-traveling television, as it has the ability to tune into historical events and broadcast them in present day! Ernetti has described watching speeches by Napoleon and plays performed in ancient Rome.
He claims it’s even proven the existence of Jesus Christ by broadcasting his crucifixion! To back up his claims he released photographs captured by the device, such as Jesus’ agonized face on the cross! This is pretty unbelievable! So, un-believable it’s probably un-true.
Let’s dive into the reasons why many are skeptical of Ernetti’s claims of a Chronovisor device. Firstly, Nobel prize-winning physicist, Enrico Fermi, was only linked to the project in 1992, decades after his death in 1954. And even though Pellegrino Ernetti was also a scientist, he later became a Benedictine monk.
Even more suspiciously, this time-traveling mechanism bears a striking resemblance to a device in T.L. Sherred’s science fiction book, “E for Effort”, a novel published in 1947, right before the Chronovisor was reportedly invented in the 1950s. In his story, Sherred describes in detail a time-viewing device that projects images of the past. Sound familiar?
The novel “E for Effort” has been reprinted many times, but the Chronovisor machine has never been found. Instead, Ernetti has claimed that he dismantled the device to keep it out of the hands of evil; a pretty convenient excuse.
But what of the photographic evidence of Jesus on the cross? Well, some journalists did some digging and discovered that this snapshot of Jesus is actually a reversed image from a postcard of a Jesus statute in the Santuario dell’Amore Misericordioso church, in Italy.
Furthermore, if such definitive proof of Jesus’s crucifixion actually existed, then releasing the entirety of this footage would be a definitive win for the Catholic Church! With the rise of more and more people now identifying as atheist, agnostic, or otherwise non-religious, the Catholic Church may be falling out of favor.
Undisputable proof of Jesus Christ would be a sure-fire way for the Vatican to amass even more devout followers. However, Ernetti failed to ever release this footage, undoubtedly because it never existed in the first place. Overall, it seems the Chronovisor is a total hoax.
Stufetta Della Bibbiena: Pope's Risqué Bathroom
In the modern era, the topic of intimate relations is becoming less and less taboo. However, there is one institution that remains staunchly prudish. The Catholic Church is fiercely conservative, they do not permit such relations before marriage or any means of artificial contraception. In addition, all Roman Catholic priests are required to remain celibate and never marry.
This is to follow the example of Jesus Christ in being “married” to the Church instead. But, it turns out that behind this strait-laced frontier, the Vatican has its own salacious secrets! The Pope may prefer to wear white but hidden away in his offices is a room that will have the rest of us blushing red!
It began in 1516 when Renaissance artist Raphael was commissioned to decorate a bathroom in the Papal Apartments for Cardinal Bibbiena. And unlike other holy men, Cardinal Bibbiena played fast and loose with the idea of purity, fascinated by raunchy pagan imagery unearthed in ancient Roman ruins.
So, he hit up Raphael to transform his bathroom from a squeaky-clean space to a dirty showcase. The panels were painted with portraits of a nude Venus, the goddess of love, and Cupid, the god of desire. Accompanied by naked nymphs being spied upon by lusting satyrs, creatures that were half-man, half-goat.
And unlike Barbie and Ken dolls, all the paintings had their anatomy fully intact! It became known as the “Stufetta della Bibbiena”, or the “small, heated room of Cardinal Bibbiena”. And even God doesn’t want to know what he got up to in there! Unsurprisingly, the rest of the Vatican loathed the artwork and has made numerous attempts to censor or erase it.
At one weird point, the room was even made into a kitchen! But no doubt the sight of the satyr’s member put people off their food, and so the room was abandoned once again. Until finally a Catholic art expert rediscovered the paintings in the mid-19th century and preserved them as part of Raphael’s legacy.
But to this day, access remains restricted, with the Vatican concealing its pervy past. After 1870, this section of the palace was turned into the Pope’s own residence. Cardinal Bibbiena’s old bedroom is now used for official diplomatic meetings with visiting heads of state.
Little do those politicians know what nude images are concealed inside the next room! So, while the Catholic Church likes to preach purity, who knows, what the Pope gets up to in this restroom in between meetings!
For those of us who have attended Sunday mass, you’ve seen the collection plate going around. Maybe you even chipped in a dollar or two, after all, it’s going to a good cause or at least that’s what you think until you see your local pastor speeding down the highway in a Ferrari!
Incredibly, that’s exactly what happened to the poor people of Philadelphia, back in 1979. This money scamming scheme was run by an order of monks operating a shrine of the Polish patron saint, the Lady of Czestochowa, also known as The Black Madonna, or Mary the Protector of Poland. They raised a total of $250,000 in donations from mass requests.
However, instead of spending the money on good causes, the monks went on insane shopping sprees! In addition, they procured more than $400,000 in donations meant to erect bronze memorial plaques for the shrine. But the funds were embezzled and spent on sports cars instead!
The monks’ greed didn’t stop there though; they even dipped into the order’s cemetery fund, which is a legal requirement for perpetual care of burial plots and memorials. But the monks illegally spent a $64,000 chunk of it! In less than a decade, the monks spent over $20 million on luxury goods and funding what was described as “chaotic” lifestyles.
Eventually, the corrupt monks were discovered, and the Vatican ordered them to turn over their televisions, stereos, cars, and credit cards. In response half the monks left the order in a crisis of faith conveniently occurring as soon as the fun money was cut off. To hide the scandal, Pope John Paul II use the power of the Vatican to pay more than $5 million in hush money to prevent the monks from being sued or charged.
But this money-laundering scheme is only the tip of the iceberg, as The Vatican’s very own bank has previously been caught red-handed in money-laundering schemes! Back in 2018, prosecutors charged former Vatican Bank President Angelo Caloia, and his attorney, Gabriele Liuzzo, for embezzling $62 million through a real estate scam run between 2001 and 2008.
Both were jailed for 8 and 5 years respectively. For an institution based on faith and morality, there sure is a whole lot of corruption! So how did the Vatican’s finances fall so far from grace?
The Church’s money-making schemes go back to the Middle Ages! You could say they were the original crypto traders, as they sold indulgences, aka free passes for sins in exchange for money. This money-making scheme became so commercialized that it ultimately ended in the Protestant revolt led by Martin Luther in 1517!
Nevertheless, the Vatican continued funding itself through indulgences and donations from wealthy benefactors. However, priests don’t make the best accountants, and the Vatican has found itself teetering on the edge of bankruptcy several times. And so, in 1929, Pope Pius the Eleventh appointed Bernardino Nogara as chief financial advisor to the Vatican.
Later during WWII, he created the Vatican Bank. During the War, the Allies imposed strict restrictions on bank accounts, to cripple any secret supporters of fascist-led Germany. Meanwhile, the Vatican, led by Pope Pius the Twelfth, had declared an official policy of neutrality.
So, the Vatican Bank, known as the ‘Institute for Religious Works’ escaped wartime restrictions, and became the perfect vessel to shift money around. And here is where the corruption started. Because of its state sovereignty, the Vatican Bank retains the ability to withhold account information from regulators and authorities.
And all this secrecy has provided excellent cover, as in 2012, 4 priests were investigated for operating bank accounts for the mafia to launder money! And priests haven’t just been having shady meetings with men in black suits. They’ve also exploited loopholes in the Italian tax system!
Under Italian law, any commercial building can waive its property taxes if the building also contains a chapel. And so, the Vatican exploited this loophole mercilessly, running a chain of hotels and health clinics, and inserting a chapel in every single building. All this tax evasion totaled a whopping 4 billion euros, about $4.2 billion, owed to the Italian government!
Though this tax scheme came to an end when the European Court of Justice issued a judgment that the Vatican will have to pay back its hefty tax bill. But not to worry, as the Vatican can certainly afford it. The bank’s assets were valued at about $5.6 billion at the end of 2018!
And the bank reportedly made a profit from its various investments and business ventures, of $19.8 million in 2018! However, one of the ways the Vatican makes its dollar, is riddled with unbelievable hypocrisy!
As you’re probably aware, the rainbow flag representing LGBTQ+ culture is flying high and proud these days, with 34 countries having legalized gay marriage. But the Catholic Church still regards same-sex marriage as a sin. They state that marriage, as intended by God’s plan, can only be between a man and a woman, and to defy the will of God is a sin, and so they do not condone same-sex relationships.
Yet, it turns out that this official policy is only a surface ruling because the Vatican has actually profited off of LGBTQ+ media, by investing $1 million in Elton John’s glittery biopic Rocketman! It was the first major Hollywood blockbuster to contain a full love scene between two gay men.
The Vatican then profited heavily off the movie’s $195 million box office success! This proves once again that the Vatican’s greed came before its religious doctrine! Though the Vatican’s financial corruption may finally be cleared up by Pope Francis, who has vowed to root out the problem. However, even he admits he has doubts whether the centuries-long issues of corruption can be overhauled. Pretty clear the Vatican Bank is full of more sinners than saints!
I hope you were amazed at the secrets the Vatican doesn't want you to know. Thanks for reading!