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The book documents the Roman Catholic Churchs 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 Churchs relations with princes and potentates in countries far beyond its dominion.
An entreaty written to Rome by another British monarch, but in very different circumstances, is also reproduced in exquisite detail.
In 1586 Mary, Queen of Scots, wrote from Fotheringay in Northants to Pope Sixtus V, a few months before she was beheaded for plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, pledging her eternal allegiance to Rome.
The document includes letters written to Hitler by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and one received by his controversial successor, Pius XII, from Japans Emperor Hirohito.
In 1863 Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States, wrote to Pope Pius IX claiming that the civil war raging across America was entirely due to Northern aggression.
We desire no evil to our enemies, nor do we covet any of their possessions; but are only struggling to the end that they shall cease to devastate our land and inflict useless and cruel slaughter upon our people. In a 1550 note, Michelangelo demands payment from the papacy which was three months late, and complains that a papal conclave had interrupted his work on the dome of St Peters Basilica.
A yellowed parchment covered in neat black script reveals details of the 14th century trials of the Knights Templar on suspicion of heresy, after which members of the warrior-monk order were pardoned by Pope Clement V.Some of the documents are already well-known, including a parchment letter written by English peers to Pope Clement VII in 1530, calling for Henry VIIIs marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be annulled.A 13th-century letter from Genghis Khans grandson demanding homage from the pope is among a collection of documents from the Vaticans Secret Archives that has been published for the first time.The Holy Sees 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 Vatican Secret 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.