Vatican For Sale: Very Wealthy Rent the Sistine Chapel, Dine with the Pope and Buy Secret Archives

With philanthropist and homeless advocate Pope Francis in charge, things are really changing inside the walls of the venerable institution, and the Vatican will never be the same again.

Over the last year the Vatican has been involved with countless fund-raising opportunities that have brought in private corporate dollars as well as income from high-profile celebrities and billionaires.

Last year Pope Francis for the very first time allowed the Sistine Chapel to be rented out for a private corporate event, with the proceeds going to his homeless charities. The Vatican would not reveal how much it was paid for the event, but the ultimate visit arranged by Porsche cost over $10,000 per person. The 40 wealthy guests enjoyed a spectacular dinner and concert in the Sistine Chapel, beneath its famed Michelangelo ceiling. The concert was performed by a choir from the historic Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Gallery of the Metallic Shelves in the Vatican Archive (Photo courtesy of Vatican Secret Archives and VdH Books/CNS)

It is believed this is the first time that the chapel, which was built by Pope Sixtus IV starting in 1473, has been leased out to a company for a private event. The Pope now wants to use the Vatican’s treasures to good use for the benefit of the poor. Porsche was required to make a sizeable donation for the use of the Sistine Chapel, with the money then passed onto charity.

But as the fundraising event was revealed, the Vatican announced it would limit the number of visitors allowed inside the chapel to just six million per year, fearing that the frescoes were being damaged by the huge swarms of tourists.

Tower of the Winds

While Pope Francis urges the world to care for the poor, he presides over the world’s most valuable collection of treasures. According to Catholic Church historian Michael Walsh, “If sold, the money could lift millions out of destitution. Pope Paul VI, whom Francis has just beatified, was so conscious of this paradox that he sold the papal tiara – the triple-tiered crown used in his coronation – to raise alms for the poor. It was bought by an American cardinal, and there has never been a papal ‘coronation’ since. But not everything is saleable. Certainly not the Sistine Chapel. The next best thing is to allow its use as a money-making enterprise with the profits going to the poor.”

Celebrities and billionaires have always had the opportunity to score private visits to the Vatican museums. Justin Bieber was reported to have offered over $50,000 on an exclusive private tour. Angelina Jolie met Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican this year as the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Recently Pope Francis startled the old guard by closing portions of the Vatican and welcoming a group of 150 homeless for a VIP private tour including the Pope’s residence in the St. Martha guesthouse. After visiting the Carriage Pavilion, the large group ventured into the Upper Galleries with the Gallery of the Candelabra and the Gallery of Maps – before making a unique visit to the apartment of Pius V and finally the Sistine Chapel itself. They were then treated to a private sit down dinner.

The brainchild of Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the visit was designed to show the city’s homeless population not just the beauty from outside St. Peter’s Basilica, but also the beauty within, which belongs to everyone, including those who have met misfortune and are living in poverty.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the pope's chief alms-giver, talks to the homeless visitors in the Sistine Chapel. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Now word has come that even the most revered Vatican Secret Archives are for sale to very wealthy buyers. Billionaires now have the opportunity to not only visit the Archives but also purchase a one-of-a-kind high quality copy of a transcript on parchment with a very high price tag (over $100,000 per page). But only an elite group of investors know how to get involved in this opportunity.

As an attempt to showcase the Archives, the Vatican invited a journalist for the very first time to visit the inner sanctum. Belgian publisher Paul Van den Heuvel was handpicked to create a $5,000 photo coffee table book on the Secret Archives, which has now become a catalog of sorts for buyers worldwide. The one caveat is that no documents after 1939 were available to view, which for obvious reasons includes the most scandalous periods of time for the Vatican.

The cardinals’ letter to the future pope Celestine V (photo by Daniele Fregonese)
Scholars have been allowed in the archive since 2003, as long as they knew exactly which documents they will research. But now, elite visitors may have the opportunity to have the ultimate in bragging rights. They will be able to walk through an enormous pair of brass doors, through multiple security checkpoints, up a narrow winding staircase to the 73m Tower of the Winds, which was built by Ottavinao Mascherino in 1578. This is a sacred place where the public is never admitted.

Beyond the Tower of Winds are rooms lined with 50 miles (roughly the length of the Panama Canal), filled with dark wooden shelves. Inside are hundreds of thousands of volumes (some almost two feet thick) filled with antiquated parchment. This is the Vatican secret archive, the most mysterious collection of documents in the world.

One of the largest tomes in the Vatican Secret Archive

Among the historic documents are: Handwritten records of Galileo’s trial before the Inquisition; the 1530 petition from England’s House of Lords asking the Pope to annul Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon; letters from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis during the U.S. Civil War; the papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther, and letters from Michelangelo including one where he complained about not receiving payment for his work on the Sistine Chapel.

Some of the more controversial, and much argued theories about hidden documents include; documentation of the Jesus bloodline; secular historical proof of Jesus’s existence, with correspondence between Saint Paul and Emperor Nero; secular historical proof via the same correspondence that Jesus did not exist; and contemporary depictions of Jesus (formal portraits of Jesus made by people who actually saw and depicted him in real life).

Weighty books of documents line the shelves of the Vatican Archives

Many historians and scholars have also hinted the Church has hidden the existence of various Biblical relics, either the relics themselves, or reliable documentation as to their whereabouts, including the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the True Cross, the truth about the Shroud of Turin, and many others.

Once, Napoleon had the whole of the secret archive transported to Paris. In 1817 it was eventually returned with countless documents missing. Private investors have speculated about what truly is available in the public sector, hidden for decades.

For now, the future of the Vatican is certainly changing forever. Many more opportunities will be unveiled in the coming year with fund raising efforts giving help to a lot of people less fortunate…. thanks to Pope Francis.

Vatican Secret Archives entry lock

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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31 Responses to Vatican For Sale: Very Wealthy Rent the Sistine Chapel, Dine with the Pope and Buy Secret Archives

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    A welcome new post. I really like the idea of rich people plunking down $100,000 per page for photocopies from the Vatican Archives – if that’s true. The Vatican Secret Archives published by VdH Books in 2009 cost a lot less than $5000. There was a presentation volume (only 33 copies) that sold for around €5000, but my first edition was way under $100. But that’s by-the-by…

    …I say what follows partly out of Kehoesque desire to get people’s backs up…but what’s wrong with ripping off the wealthy who wish to spend $10,000 for a dinner and concert in the Sistine Chapel? Not that I ever would (or could) do such a vulgar thing, but everyone pays to get inside. There’s now a service that allows you to pay a premium to skip the line-ups. What’s the diff?

    Actually, I don’t think anyone should be allowed inside who isn’t a Catholic possessing a letter of introduction from his parish priest. Seriously. But that’s not in the cards because the Vatican needs money to survive as a world heritage site, which is also extremely important.


  2. toadspittle says:

    “The one caveat is that no documents after 1939 were available to view, which for obvious reasons includes the most scandalous periods of time for the Vatican.”
    ..Surely not? Nothing “scandalous” ever happened there before Vat ll, did it? Or that what is being referred to?


  3. John A. Kehoe says:

    I don’t have any desire to get people’s backs up. More of your provocation. I don’t see why you drag my name into this.
    I have been to the Sistine Chapel a number of times. What use the Pope wishes to make of it is none of your business nor of mine.


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    If you’ve no desire to get people’s backs up, don’t do it. Tell one of those hilarious jokes you’re famous for down the Bull & Castle instead.


  5. John A. Kehoe says:

    In what way have I got people’s back’s up ? Simply contributing to the conversation which you or others can simply ignore if you so please ?. I don’t agree with your views but don’t engage in jibes against you. They are your views.
    I don’t tell jokes, hilarious or otherwise, down at the Bull and Castle. You are the one famous for corny jokes


  6. GC says:

    Well, I expect that shortly Toad will tell us of the kinds of things the Borgias got up to in the Sistine Chapel, not to mention in the nooks and crannies of those Secret Archives.


  7. kathleen says:

    This is an interesting article – though we are rightly warned by Gertrude of where it is coming from; hence, there might be a bit of an anti-Catholic bias squeezed in wherever possible! 😉 However, it is evident that these “fund-raising opportunities” being promoted by the Vatican under Pope Francis are indeed taking place.

    While Pope Francis as current Vicar of Christ does certainly preside over “the world’s most valuable collection of treasures” in the Vatican, he is not its owner, nor is any single member of the Church past or present… and AFAIK cannot dispose of any of it on his/their own initiative. This collection of “treasures” in art, sculpture, literature, historical documents and letters, etc. is all part of the Church’s patrimony, and belongs to the whole Catholic Church, (in spite of the necessary restrictions for common viewing some of the most intriguing and secret).

    The purpose of the Church is to save souls and souls are only saved by loving God and our neighbour as ourselves. This automatically goes to follow that in the corporal works of mercy we are admonished “to feed the hungry; to clothe the naked; etc.”, and this has always been the mission of the Church. I find it extremely annoying that many in the MSM appear to make out that this mission of the Church is something new!! Nothing could be further than the truth; the institutional Catholic Church is the greatest contributor to combatting poverty and health issues IN THE WORLD, and always has been. Even secular statistical sites like wikipedia have to begrudgingly recognise this fact.

    Pope Francis may have an exceptional desire to fulfill the corporal works of mercy above all else – I don’t know, and will let others better qualified than I am to judge that – but the spiritual works of mercy are also commands of the Church. These include, “to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; etc.” of the Truths of Catholic teaching, and these do not seem to be quite so forthcoming from some quarters of the current hierarchy in the Church today.


  8. toadspittle says:

    I feel obliged to diffidently suggest, Mr Kehoe – that you are temperamentally unsuited to folly and badinage of this nature. You are far too nice.
    You would be better advised to leave this sort of knockabout farce to the riff-raff – like Michael, JH, and Toad.


  9. toadspittle says:

    Certainly not.
    Not on a family blog.
    I won’t be responsible for bringing a blush to JH’s damasked cheeks.


  10. johnhenrycn says:

    Quite right my distinguished Hibernian friend and colleague of many years: I have never heard you intentionally tell a joke, hilarious or otherwise. As for getting people’s backs up, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that on an opinion blog, so long as one doesn’t descend into trollery (which I don’t think you ever have), but to deny that you are reasonably perceived by not a few of your readers as a crotchety contrarian is laughable. There, you just made me laugh.


  11. kathleen says:

    Many historians and scholars have also hinted the Church has hidden the existence of various Biblical relics, either the relics themselves, or reliable documentation as to their whereabouts, including the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the True Cross, the truth about the Shroud of Turin, and many others.

    Hmmm – I smell a rat here. 😉

    “Hints” could be synonyms of “rumours”, or “wishful thinking”.
    Especially what the journalist calls “the truth” about the famous venerated Shroud of Turin. What truth could that possibly be if even the greatest scientists in the world have been unable to show any evidence to disprove its genuineness as the actual burial cloth that covered the Sacred Body of Our Lord in the tomb?
    And if the “truth” referred to was, on the other hand, a positive proof of its origins, why would the Vatican keep it secret?
    Something doesn’t seem to add up.


  12. toadspittle says:

    Agreed, Kathleen. I also found that paragraph highly questionable, if not incomprehensible.

    However, The Shroud can never be “proved” to be genuine. It could still possibly be convincingly demonstrated to be a fake, though.
    I don’t know, one way or the other. But – both it, and its provenance, look pretty dodgy to me. But, then again, so do a lot of things.


  13. kathleen says:

    Toad, if you do a bit of a search on prestigious “Shroud of Turin” sites, you will see that there are many highly convincing and well-founded reasons for believing in the claim for its authenticity as Our Lord’s burial shroud. The image is thought to have been formed through a massive burst of radiation at the moment of the Resurrection.
    (We have recently been reminded of how images are formed on corresponding surfaces during intense heat and radiation, as in the atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

    The two most often asked questions (and there are many) still being asked about this enigmatic cloth by both believers and sceptics are:
    What is its true age? (as the Carbon 14 dating tests have not been conclusive)
    What was the whereabouts of the Shroud before it came to light in the Middle Ages?

    Both these questions and others are being investigated by historians and scientists of the highest integrity and objectiveness. Not one of them to date has ever found any data whatsoever that shows the Shroud up as a fake – quite the contrary – but there probably never will be, as you say, a “proof” that will determine 100%, once and for all, of its genuineness either.

    Faith in Christ and His Glorious Resurrection (and the corresponding ‘fiat’ required from us once we acknowledge this) will always be a choice man must make of his own free will; it can never be coerced by any scientific discoveries, however incredible or convincing these might be.


  14. toadspittle says:

    Two things regarding the shroud make me somewhat dubious.
    1: It looks the exactly the way one would expect a fake shroud of a crucified man to look. It is too “neat.” It may, nevertheless, be genuine, despite that.
    2: It made an odd appearance, out of “nowhere,” at just the time in history, circa 1350, when Relic Mania was at its zenith. Which leads sceptical people to envision some clever medieval fellow musing, “What if we had the actual shroud Christ was wrapped in? That would be a sensation, wouldn’t it?” Still, that “timing” may yet be mere coincidence.
    It may be genuine. Nice if it is.
    However, like a lot of things – it is totally real to those who believe it is totally real.


  15. johnhenrycn says:

    1. I dispute that it looks “too neat”, especially keeping in mind it was not until the 19th C. that its hidden mysteries were revealed in amazing detail. (“Giuseppe, let’s make a fake shroud that people will marvel at 500 years from now when photography is invented.“)

    2. I dispute that mania for relics reached an apex in the 13th C. (a minor quibble that I’m willing to be scolded over).

    3. It is definitely genuine if it has caused even one lost soul to turn to Christ. That’s the most important thing about relics. Provenance, albeit an intriguing question, is secondary.


  16. toadspittle says:

    Good points, JH. Particularly the third.


  17. johnhenrycn says:

    Thank you, Toad (Hence the thumbs up).

    I was so tickled to see your Toledo Police Department mugshot linked here by BB a few days ago. Always nice to put a farce to a name.


  18. Michael says:

    Re the Shroud of Turin, this documentary (the best ever produced according to its uploader…!) gives a very good overview of what those studying it have been able to ascertain:

    Basically, it does seem that a hypothetical forger would have to have had known a vast amount of things that it would not be possible for anyone to know up until very recently, have been able to reproduce imaging techniques which even know are staggeringly unique, and to have anticipated the sort of things that a team of 20th century researchers might be looking for in their studies. For a properly impartial observer then, I think scepticism about its authenticity would be unwarranted.

    Also, in 2005, Raymond Rogers (a chemist working on the Shroud) was able to show that the samples taken to do carbon dating on back in 1988 were actually taken from a part of the cloth that had been repaired later on (most likely due to fire damage). So, even if this cloth was from the high Medieval period (which many query on other grounds), it is not a sample from the Shroud itself. There is another documentary, made by the Discovery Channel, available on youtube about Rogers’ findings, if anyone is interested, called ‘Unwrapping the Shroud of Turin: New Evidence’.


  19. kathleen says:

    Michael @ 12:48

    Wonderful! I look forward to listening to the whole video again later on tonight.. and looking up the Discovery Channel one you mention too – no time right now.
    You are quite right that the carbon dating was done on a piece of the cloth that had ‘new’ threads woven into the old when the nuns repaired some of the fraying edges. This error has been confirmed by the experts now, so hopefully a new carbon dating will be made soon. I have heard there is still the question of whether the exposure to fire that the Shroud was subject to, might not also affect this experiment. Have you heard that yourself?

    I saw this curious reflection from someone called Yannick Clément, (Louiseville, Québec, Canada) on The Shroud Story blog:
    “Reflecting about the body image on the Shroud, I came up with what I consider to be a quite interesting reflection and I would like to share it with everyone. It takes the form of philosophical question: What if the image formation on the Shroud would be in the very same category as the apparition of life on Earth more than 3 Billion* years ago, i.e. a wonderful event that came out of God’s will through the natural laws that he created and which science is still unable to fully explain today?
    I think it can well be the case and, if it is so, I think we could still consider both events (the apparition of life and the Shroud image formation) as being “miraculous” in a way. Effectively, it’s not because an event happened through the natural laws created by God that it cannot be considered by us as “miraculous” in a way (or at least “wonderful” or “amazing”)…”

    * A questionable amount of time!


  20. Robert says:

    The whole point of the Shroud is it a negative image. That image is also 100% three dimensional. This could/wasn’t known prior to photography and computors capable of CGI and doing the maths.
    In other words it challenges Modernism (non belief in supernatural). The wounds on the Shroud image are exactly those expected of a crucified man with a entry wound in the chest, severally scourged, marks on the head indicative of crowning with thorns. The body mirrors the gospel descriptions known for 2000 years.
    Then there is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe dating from 1531.
    Perhaps Darwin could identify the crucified’s parent Ape?
    Perhaps we see in simplicity the Son of God whose parent is God The Father?


  21. toadspittle says:

    “Perhaps Darwin could identify the crucified’s parent Ape?”

    Probably not, Roberge. He’s been dead for 133 years. (Darwin, that is – not the ape.)
    But it’s a remarkably intelligent question on your part.


  22. Michael says:

    I have heard there is still the question of whether the exposure to fire that the Shroud was subject to, might not also affect this experiment. Have you heard that yourself?

    I hadn’t heard that no, but in theory it is certainly possible. If any samples taken from either the genuine Shroud of the newer cloth used to repair it had been denatured at all by heat, it would certainly alter the composition, and would definitely affect a carbon-dating test. The only question I can think of that would then remain would be whether or not those doing the tests knew to look for aberrations of that kind (it may be standard procedure when investigating fabrics of great age – I don’t know though).

    As to Yannick Clément’s reflection, I am not 100% sure I understand his point. Is he asking whether or not the Shroud should be considered as a special kind of miracle, comparable to the creation of conscious life itself as opposed to an (for want of a better word) ‘ordinary’ miracle? If so, then I think there is certainly something to that – given that the very existence of the Shroud is most likely due to the event of the Resurrection, and that the Resurrection is itself an act of ‘new creation’. There are parallels drawn throughout the New Testament between natural birth and re-birth ‘in’ Christ, so insofar as the Shroud image is linked to the Resurrection itself, then it can, I think, be considered in (or linked to) the same category as our initial creation, yes. If that’s what he meant – I’m still not sure! 🙂


  23. Michael says:

    P.S. I misread that – Clément is not talking about conscious life (i.e.; us humans) but life in general, which is a bit harder to define. Does he mean animal life, the emergence of single-cell organisms, any life at all? That certainly makes it harder to draw parallels with the Shroud, and yes, the ‘3 billion years’ tag doesn’t help!


  24. toadspittle says:

    Are there, in fact, “Ordinary Miracles,” and “Extraordinary Miracles”?
    Extraordinary point.


  25. kathleen says:

    Yes, Michael, your first thought about Yannick Clément’s reflection on the creation of conscious life, i.e. human life, was my first thought too… until I read his extraordinary figure of 3 billion years, and realised it couldn’t be! So I’m as puzzled as you are to what his real meaning is.

    However, that Adam and Eve were first created in an unknown ‘explosion of radiation’ (for want of a better phrase) similar to the one of the Resurrection of Our Lord’s Sacred Body lying in the tomb, might have some truth in it.
    The miracle of the Creation of Life. And of Life over Death. They come from God – we know that. Though the way it took place is still being disputed, even among Catholics.

    P.S. [Ed.] Sorry, on a re-reading of my comment I see that last sentence was very badly expressed. I was referring to the Church’s timeless teachings (and defined clearly in the Baltimore Catechism) and that I believe in, and those in the Church who believe Man evolved until one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve, were given by God an immortal soul.


  26. Michael says:

    Are there, in fact, “Ordinary Miracles,” and “Extraordinary Miracles”?
    Extraordinary point.

    That’s why I prefaced the phrase with ‘for want of a better word’. What I meant is that some miracles are more significant, and more foundational than others – they are ones in which other miracles are grounded and in the light of which we must view the latter.


  27. Michael says:

    Kathleen @ 13:28, August 17th:

    Yes, my feelings exactly. It is also possible (whilst assuredly still remaining firmly in the realms of speculation) that such energy as was emitted to create the image on the Shroud, which those who have studied it reckon to be something quite unlike any other kind of (again, for want of a better word/phrase!) ‘blast’ of energy that they know of, could be of the same type as that which we read Peter, James and John had a glimpse of at the Transfiguration:

    ‘And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.’ (Matthew 17:2)

    There is a lot of reflection about the nature of this light in Eastern Orthodoxy, and I don’t know too much about it to be honest (apart from the fact that some of these reflections have been bound up in controversy), but there does seem to be a kind of consensus that this light was a brief glimpse of the ‘eternal brightness’ – the uncreated light of the Divine, which when manifest within creation, is of almost indescribable intensity; brighter than any natural light, and not just quantitatively but qualitatively different. This would certainly be in keeping with what has been said about the kind of ‘blast’ that would be required to make the image on the Shroud!


  28. Robert says:

    Fatima the crowds looked at the midday SUN.
    Look at the Resurected Body of Christ. A real and living Body but this flesh now spiritualised. This is what happened at the Transfiguration. Look at St Peter escaping from Prison. Look at Bilocution. Look at the Eucharist.
    St Pius X warned against modernism. This denial of the supernatural and reduction of everything to the material. If the spirit exists in intelligence and memory outside the Body (evidenced in the Old Testament and known for instance in Homer) in the form and shape of the Body. The spirit that has senses.
    Look at the Ressurected Christ and see and understand what Adam’s body must have been like before the Fall because Christ is True God and True Man. Think of the Dogma of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Think of what the virgin birth means. What the virgin birth MUST mean.
    Why do you believe Athiests and deny Creation?
    Science doesn’t know! Aquinas points out the Science without Faith Falls into error.


  29. toadspittle says:

    “Science doesn’t know!”
    Indeed it doesn’t – and what’s more, it doesn’t know it doesn’t know.
    Because science is not a creature. It doesn’t “know” things. It hasn’t got a brain, and it’s not alone in that. It’s a process. Regbort can never grasp the idea, it seems.
    Science is neither good nor bad – any more than religion is.
    It’s what we make of them both that yields good or bad results.
    Popper said, “Science begins with a problem and and ends with a new problem.” And that’s true.


  30. kathleen says:

    Robert @ 9:32

    Why do you believe Athiests and deny Creation?

    That’s quite a serious accusation dear Robert! Please tell us who you are directing it to. To Michael? To me? Not even Toad actually denies Creation.

    No one, as far as I can see, is believing in the modernist lies of Atheists, nor denying the absolute truth that God is the Father of all Creation.


  31. toadspittle says:

    “No one, as far as I can see, is believing in the modernist lies of Atheists, nor denying the absolute truth that God is the Father of all Creation.”
    Well, Toad doesn’t see it as an absolute truth, Kathleen – a possibility, surely. Among others.
    Impossible to know one way or the other, for certain. Like evolution, really.
    Nor do I believe in the lies of Atheists – any more than I do in the lies of believers.
    In fact, I don’t believe in lies at all. I think they are untrue.


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