Vatican Reopens New State-of-the-Art Library

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The Vatican is about to reopen its new state-of-the-art library after three years of renovations which include housing its 2,000 year-old collection in a bombproof bunker and outfitting its 70,000 books with computer chips.

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the renovations, which cost millions, came about as a result of an attempted theft by an American art history professor who tried to smuggle pages torn out of a 14th century manuscript in 1987. As a result, all of the documents in the new library have been fitted with computer chips that issue a radio signal that can be used to track lost books and insure that each document has been returned to its proper place.

“In this kind of library, if a book is misplaced, it is as good as lost,” said Ambrogio Piazzoni, the library’s vice-prefect. “But with this new radio frequency system of identification, it will be much easier to locate a lost book and return it to its rightful place.”

The renovations also included the installation of fireproof walls, closed-circuit cameras, automated entry and exit gates and climate-controlled rooms.

The Vatican library houses many priceless books and documents, including the world’s oldest known complete Bible, which dates from 325 B.C. and is believed to have been commissioned by the Emperor Constantine.

The library permits 5,000 scholars per year to undertake research on its premises, but only the Pope is allowed to withdraw a book.

Begun by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450’s, the library contains books and manuscripts that are  the product of the “thought, passion and faith” of centuries of religious scholarship, Piazzoni told the Telegraph. “It’s not just the heritage of the Vatican Library but of the whole of humanity.”

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