Notre Dame and Vatican Library to celebrate new collaboration

Author: Michael O. Garvey

The Promise Of The Vatican Library

The University of Notre Dame and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, or Vatican Library, will formalize a unique agreement of collaboration and exchange in a ceremony at 12:30 p.m. May 9 (Monday) in the Hesburgh Room of the Morris Inn, where Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P., archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, will sign a memorandum of understanding.

The only such collaboration between the Vatican Library and any North American academic institution, the agreement will develop visits and informal exchanges of faculty, scholars, librarians and administrators; organize joint conferences, lecture series, art exhibitions, and musical and theatrical performances; and explore the development of joint programs of research.

“All of humanity should celebrate the Vatican Library for its mission to steward and protect the riches of global culture,” said Father Jenkins. “Notre Dame shares this mission as we inculcate an appreciation for the pursuit of truth in our students. In the face of forces which wish to make our horizons more narrow and sectarian, our two institutions point toward a vision which encounters God in the whole of creation. It is this affinity of mission that makes me so very glad for our collaboration and our long-term partnership into the future.”

The agreement will be celebrated on campus with an academic conference jointly sponsored by the two institutions, an exhibition of materials from the Biblioteca Apostolica, and a concert of sacred music featuring music from manuscripts in the Vatican Library’s holdings.

The conference, The Promise of the Vatican Library, will be held from May 8-10 in Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall. Among conference speakers discussing holdings of the Vatican Library and opportunities for future research will be Archbishop Bruguès; Carmela Vircillo Franklin, professor of classical studies at Columbia University; and James Hankins, professor of history at Harvard University.

An exhibition of materials from the Vatican Library will be held May 8-22 in the Milly and Fritz Kaeser Mestrovic Studio Gallery of the Snite Museum of Art. The exhibition of manuscripts, printed books, maps and drawings will include Galileo’s 1610 astronomical treatise, “Sidereus Nuncius,” the first published scientific work based on observations made through a telescope; a 13th-century manuscript commentary by Albertus Magnus on Aristotle’s treatise on nature, “Parva Naturalia”; and a 16th-century Mass composed by Josquin des Préz, which represents the introduction of movable type for printing music.

Materials selected from the collections of the Hesburgh Library will be featured in “Vestigia Vaticana,” an exhibition of books and manuscripts from the Middle Ages through the modern era, including papal bulls and documents, papal book bindings and representations of the Vatican in print, will be held in the Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections rooms May 5 through Aug. 15.

A concert of sacred music featuring music held by the Vatican Library will take place at 4 p.m. May 10 (Tuesday) in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The concert, “Penitence and Praise: A Concert of Sacred Music in Italian Libraries,” will include music from des Préz’s Mass as well as works by Domenico Scarlatti and Antonio Vivaldi.

The Vatican Library’s holdings today include some 80,000 manuscripts; 100,000 archival documents; 1.6 million printed books, including nearly 9,000 incunabula, 150,000 prints, thousands of drawings and plates; over 200,000 photographs; and 300,000 coins and medals, among other items. The manuscript collection includes such invaluable materials as the “Codex Vaticanus” of the Bible; the “Vergilius Vaticanus,” containing fragments of Virgil’s Aeneid; the “Dante Urbinate”; and other manuscripts that are used to produce modern editions of countless ancient texts.

“That spirit that inspired the Vatican Library also gave rise of the first universities in 13th-century Europe and continues today at the University of Notre Dame,” Father Jenkins said. “One of the distinctive goals of Notre Dame is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions and every other area of human scholarship and creativity. We believe that no genuine search for truth in the human or cosmic order is alien to the life of faith. We are grateful beyond measure for the existence of the Vatican Library, which allows scholars to pursue truth by studying the treasures of civilization.”

Contact: Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., vice president for mission engagement and church affairs, 574-631-1212,