Monday, February 16, 2015

Case Study No. 1844: Custodians of the Vatican's Secret Archives

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Angels & Demons is a 2009 American mystery thriller directed by Ron Howard and based on Dan Brown's novel by the same name. As a film it is the sequel to the 2006 film, The Da Vinci Code, also directed by Ron Howard. The novel was published first and The Da Vinci Code followed it. Filming of Angels & Demons took place in Rome, Italy, and the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California.

Tom Hanks returns to play the lead role — Robert Langdon — as do producer Brian Grazer, composer Hans Zimmer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman.

Under the watchful eyes of Father Silvano Bentivoglio (Carmen Argenziano) and Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) initiates the Large Hadron Collider and creates three vials of antimatter particles larger than any that have ever been produced before. Almost immediately, Father Silvano is killed and one of the vials of antimatter goes missing. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church is mourning the sudden death of Pope Pius XVI in Rome and prepares for the papal conclave to elect the next Pope. The Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) assumes temporary control of the Vatican. The Illuminati kidnap four of the 'preferiti' (the favourite cardinals to be elected pope) before the conclave enters seclusion and threaten to kill one candidate every hour and destroy all of Vatican City at midnight, using the missing vial of antimatter as a bomb. The Vatican summons symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) from Harvard University and Vittoria from CERN to help them save the four preferiti and locate the vial.

Langdon listens to the Illuminati's message and deduces that the four cardinals will die at the four altars of the "Path of Illumination," marked by statues of angels in locations relevant to the four classical elements. Over the objections of Commander Maximilian Richter (Stellan Skarsgard), head of the Swiss Guard, but with McKenna's consent, Langdon is granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives. He examines Galileo Galilei's banned book with Vetra. Following the clues and accompanied by Inspector General Ernesto Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino), and Claudio Vincenzi (David Pasquesi) of the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, they arrive at the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. There they find Cardinal Ebner (Curt Lowens) dead, suffocated with soil and branded with an ambigrammatic word "Earth". They verify the second location is Saint Peter's Square but are unable to save Cardinal Lamassé (Franklin Amobi); his lungs punctured and his body branded with "Air".

While Vetra studies Silvano's diaries, Langdon, Olivetti and Vincenzi locate the third church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, but are unable to save Cardinal Guidera (Bob Yerkes) from being burned to death. His body is branded with an ambigrammatic word, "Fire". The assassin (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) appears and kills Olivetti and Vincenzi, while Langdon barely manages to escape with his life. Langdon and two Carabinieri officers (Victor Alfieri and Todd Schneider) race to the Water altar, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, where the assassin murders the officers and drops a bound and weighted Cardinal Baggia (Marco Fiorini) into the fountain. Langdon, assisted by bystanders, saves the cardinal, who tells him the Illuminati's lair is Castel Sant'Angelo. There Langdon and Vetra discover a hidden passageway leading to the Vatican, being used as a hideout for the assassin. Discovering a case with marks for five branding irons, they realize the fifth brand is for the camerlengo but are confronted by the assassin before they can alert McKenna. The assassin spares their lives, then cryptically warns them that his contractors were "men of God". He escapes but is then killed when his car explodes.

Inside the Vatican, Langdon and Vetra find Commander Richter hovering over McKenna with a gun, the Vatican symbol branded into McKenna's chest. Richter and Archbishop Simeon (Cosimo Fusco) are shot by the Guards, and Langdon takes a key that slips from Richter's hand. The stolen antimatter vial is found in St. Peter's Tomb below the church, but the battery life is too low to risk re-connecting it to a battery. McKenna, a former military pilot, seizes the vial and uses an awaiting helicopter to fly above the Vatican. At a high altitude, he parachutes out as the antimatter bomb explodes overhead. McKenna is hailed a hero and savior, and the cardinals move to elect him pope. Langdon and Vetra use Richter's key to watch a security video showing McKenna speaking to Richter before the attack. The video reveals that it is McKenna, not the Illuminati, who masterminded the scheme; McKenna intended to use the incident to be named Pope and to rally the church's most conservative followers to his side. The recording is shown to the Papal conclave, and when it dawns on McKenna that he has been exposed he flees to a remote recess in the building where he is able to commit suicide by setting himself on fire.

The Vatican officially announces that McKenna died due to internal injuries suffered during his parachute landing, and Cardinal Baggia is named Pope Luke, with Cardinal Strauss as the new camerlengo. Strauss thanks Langdon for his assistance and gives Langdon Galileo's "Diagramma Veritatis" for his research, requesting only that Langdon's will contain a bequest that it be returned to the Vatican, and that any future references he makes about the Catholic Church in his future publications be done "gently".



The Vatican opens its Secret Archives to dispel Dan Brown myths
After centuries of being kept under lock and key, the Vatican has started opening its Secret Archives to outsiders in a bid to dispel the myths and mystique created by works of fiction such as Dan Brown's Angels and Demons.

Nick Squires in the Vatican
10:09PM BST 27 May 2010

The archives, until now jealously guarded from prying eyes, provide one of the key settings in Brown's thriller, in which Harvard "symbologist" Robert Langdon, played in the 2009 film by Tom Hanks, races against time to stop a secret religious order, the Illuminati, from destroying Vatican City.

In the movie, the Secret Archives are portrayed as a hi-tech cross between the Pentagon and the lair of a James Bond baddy, complete with bullet proof glass and swish steel elevators.

In reality, the archives rely on disarmingly old-fashioned technology, with a creaking metal lift connecting different floors and millions of documents catalogued in 1,300 parchment-bound inventories dating back centuries.

They have been open to carefully vetted academic researchers for more than 100 years, but in the last few months the Vatican has granted tours to select groups of journalists and members of the public, allowing a glimpse into one of its inner most sanctums.

The Daily Telegraph was invited on the most recent tour this week, along with about 25 enthusiasts from around the world who earned their places by buying a recently published, lavishly illustrated book on the archives.

The archives are housed in a fortress-like wing of the Vatican behind St Peter's Basilica, with the avenue leading to the building watched over by a phalanx of Swiss Guards in ceremonial uniform and officers from the city state's own police force, the Gendarmerie.

The two-hour visit revealed more than 52 miles of shelving in an underground, concrete- walled bunker, as well as exquisite 16th century wooden cabinets packed with priceless parchment letters sent by princes, potentates, heretics and heathens to the Holy See.

They include correspondence between the Vatican and some of the most prominent figures in history, including Erasmus, Charlemagne, Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth I, Mozart, Voltaire and Adolf Hitler.

One of the most elaborate is a letter sent by English peers and bishops to Rome in 1530 demanding to know why Pope Clement VII was taking so long to annul the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. It bears 83 signatures, below which dangle 81 official seals on red cord.

The oldest document in the archives dates back to the 8th century, while others relate to the trials of the Knights Templar from 1308-1310 and the enrolment of the first contingent of the Swiss Guard in 1505.

The archives' custodians are at pains to dispel the conspiracy theories and aura of intrigue fostered by Brown's hugely popular page-turners.

"The word 'secret' is not quite right – it comes from the Latin 'secretum' which in fact translates more accurately as 'private'. These documents are the private archives of the popes. We really don't have many secrets," insisted Marco Grilli, the secretary to the prefecture of the archives.

When pressed, however, he admitted that there is a section which really is secret and that remains off-limits to historians and academics.

It contains papers relating to the personal affairs of cardinals from 1922 onwards, as well as centuries of annulment of marriages. Whether there are any bombshells lurking in these confidential files is a matter known only to the Vatican.

Nor do scholars have access to any papal papers from after 1939 – the beginning of the papacy of the controversial wartime pontiff Pius XII, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to the Nazis' extermination of the Jews.

While the recent scandals over clerical sex abuse have only confirmed the Vatican's centuries-old bunker mentality, the Secret Archives seem to be forging a different approach.

"We were amazed by the access we were given and the speed with which the whole project was completed," said Paul Van den Heuvel, of VdH Books, the Belgian firm which published the glossy volume of high-quality reproductions of 105 documents. "The Vatican is beginning to realise what an incredible asset it has."



With a heavy THUD, the huge doors close and bolts SLAM into place. An ancient key GRINDS in an ornate lock, two heavy chains RATTLE into place, FOUR SWISS GUARD take position in front of the doors and at that very moment --


-- two huge, modern glass doors WHOOSH open, revealing what looks like a 23rd century library. It's a massive underground space, like a darkened airplane hangar, with a dozen glass boxes evenly spaced throughout. They're lit up from within, each containing row upon row of bookshelves, neatly filled with books, papers, and arcana.

LT. CHARTRAND, a twenty-five year old member of the Swiss Guard (in a suit and earpiece, not the traditional garb), leads Langdon and Vittoria toward the glass enclosures.

CHARTRAND: (Swiss accent) The chambers are hermetic vaults, oxygen is kept at lowest possible levels. It's a partial vacuum inside. More than ten minutes in the vault is not recommended without breathing apparatus.

He stops at one particular chamber and gestures to the sign on its door -- "Il Processo Galileano."

CHARTRAND: I'll be just outside the door.

Langdon starts toward the entrance to the vault, but Chartrand puts a hand on his chest, stopping him.

CHARTRAND: Watching you, Mr. Langdon.

Langdon looks at him. He's not popular around here.


The electronic revolving door spins and admits Langdon to the interior of the vault. He takes a deep breath, holds it, and lets it out.

Vittoria follows shortly behind him, and she's unprepared -- the lack of oxygen hits her hard, she dizzies.

LANGDON: Take a moment. If you feel double vision, double over.

VITTORIA: (bends over) Feels like I'm... scuba diving... with the wrong mixture.

LANGDON: Plenty of time.

He checks his watch. It's 7:07.

LANGDON: Uh... actually, I take that back.



Inside the archive, Vittoria is searching the lower shelves while Langdon, on a ladder, digs through folio bins higher up.

LANGDON: -- confiscated from the Netherlands by the Vatican shortly after Galileo's death. I've been petitioning to see it for almost ten years. Ever since I realized what was in it.

VITTORIA: What makes you so sure the Segno is there?

LANGDON: (while searching) The number 503. I kept seeing it over and over in llluminati letters, scribbled in the margins, or sometimes just signed that way, "503." It's a numerical clue, but to what? Five, of course, is the sacred llluminati number -- the pentagram, Pythagoras, a dozen other examples in science -- but why three?

LANGDON: It made no sense. And then I thought -- what if it were a Roman numeral?


LANGDON: D3. Galileo's third text. (ticking them off) Dialogo. Discorsi.

His eyes light up as he pulls a slender volume out of a folio bin on one of the top shelves.

LANGDON: Diagramma.

A MOMENT LATER, Langdon, now wearing white cotton gloves, sets the tiny manuscript on a viewing stand.

LANGDON: Diagramma della Verita. The Diagram of Truth.

VITTORIA: I know about Dialogo and Discorsi -- Galileo laid out his theories about the earth revolving around the sun, and the church forced him to recant. But what was this?

LANGDON: This is where he got the word out. The truth, not what the Vatican forced him to write. Smuggled out of Rome and printed in Holland on sedge papyrus. That way any scientists caught with a copy could simply drop it in water and the booklet would dissolve.

Carefully, he turns the first page.

LANGDON: Between its delicate nature and the Vatican burnings, it's said this is the only copy that remains. (turns the second page) And if I'm right the Segno should be hidden -- (and the third) -- on page number -- (and the fourth) -- five.

He stops. They study the page.

LANGDON: Latin. Can you --- ?


She reaches for the book, to pull it towards her, but Langdon SLAPS her hand. He holds up his own glove.

LANGDON: Finger acids.

She rolls her eyes and leans in, studying the page. There are sketches on the page as well.

VITTORIA: (reading) Movement of the planets... elliptical orbits... heliocentricity...

Langdon's nervous. This doesn't sound right. Vittoria turns the page, turns it back.

VITTORIA: I'm sorry, I don't think there's anything that could be interpreted as a--

LANGDON: Wait wait wait wait. Do that again.

She turns the page, then turns it back. Noticing something in the deep crevice of the margin as the page moves, Langdon grabs a magnifying glass on the end of a long pole and swings it over.

There, in the print gutter, what looked like a smudge is revealed under the magnifier to be --

LANGDON: What is that? Wait a minute, it's a water mark. And there's a line of text.

He takes another look

LANGDON: Go back. It's in English.

VITTORIA: English? Why English?

LANGDON: English wasn't used in the Vatican, it was too polluted . Too free-thinking, it was a language of radicals like Shakespeare and Chaucer.

He rotates the book.

LANGDON: Here's another one.

He keeps rotating the book, finds two more tiny lines written at the very edges, barely visible to the naked eye.

LANGDON: "The path of light is laid, the sacred test..." Would you write this down as I dictate?

VITTORIA: Sorry, Professor. No time.

Before Langdon can do anything to stop her, she RIPS the page from the text and shoves it in her pocket.

Langdon's jaw drops. He shoots a look over his shoulder at Lt. Chartrand, but the man's back is turned.

LANGDON: Yeah yeah, what the hell.

He SNAPS the magnifying glass off the end of its pole.



The doors SLAM on a Vatican police car and the tires SQUEAL as Olivetti hits the gas.


Olivetti is behind the wheel, Vittoria's in front, Langdon leans in from the back seat.

OLIVETTI: Twenty minutes till eight, where are we headed?

LANGDON: Hold on, hold on. I'll tell you in a minute, lemmee see that page again.

Vittoria pulls the page from the Diagramma out of her pocket and hands it to Langdon. He pulls the magnifier from his coat and studies the thin paper, turning it in his hands.

LANGDON: (reading) From Santi's earthly tomb with demon's hole...

OLIVETTI: Where did you get that paper?!

LANGDON: 'Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold.

VITTORIA: We borrowed it.

LANGDON: The path of light is laid, the sacred test...

OLIVETTI: Are you insane?!

LANGDON: Let angels guide thee on thy earthly quest.

OLIVETTI: You removed a document from the Vatican Archives?!

LANGDON: (pause) She did.

VITTORIA: "From Santi's earthly tomb" ... The first marker is at Santi's tomb.

LANGDON: (musing) Yeah.

VITTORIA: But who is Santi?

LANGDON: Raphael.

VITTORIA: Il Raffaello? The sculptor?

LANGDON: Santi was his last name.

VITTORIA: So the path starts at Raphael's tomb!

OLIVETTI: Raphael is buried at the Pantheon.

VITTORIA: Isn't the Pantheon a church?

OLIVETTI: (snatching up the RADIO) Oldest Catholic church in Rome!

Langdon has fallen silent, but it all makes perfect sense, so he says nothing as Olivetti cranks the wheel hard --

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