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The Historical Archive of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major

The Historical Liberian Archive owns and stores documentary material and books that can be ascribed to a time between the 16th and 20th centuries, with the exception of some pieces, among which, are two items that stand out: a notarial document dating back to 1236, concerning the renewal of a lease granted by the nobleman Stephanus Paparonis, and a small fragment in Beneventan script taken from a ledger, whose text can be traced to the Anti-pelagian Treaty known as Hypomnesticon. A significant and miscellaneous section was instead transferred to the Vatican Apostolic Library on 19 May 1931 at the request of Pope Pius XI, where it is still kept in the Saint Mary Major Fund. They include private and pontifical documents (389 in total from the 10th to the 19th century), manuscripts of books and documents (84 items, among them one from the 9th century with Gregory the Great’s Regula Pastoralis: Vatican Apostolic Library, Saint Mary Major, 43), ancient prints (among them four incunabula) and 112 chalcographic matrices.


Allocation of Funds

Not having undergone a systematic reorganization to meet today’s archival standards, the Archive does not have an inventory, but only a catalogue which can be subdivided as follows:

- Archive of the Chapter (with a music library partially catalogued by IBIMUS, Institute of Musical Bibliography) according to the standards of RISM (International Inventory of Musical Sources) and documents of the sub-fund of the Pious Society of Spain).

- Archive of the College of Beneficed Clergy and Clerics

- Archive of the College of the Borghese Chapel

- Archive of the College of the Sistine Chapel


Guidelines of the Liberian Archive
(in force from 1 November 2022)

1. Opening dates and times

1. The Archive is open to researchers throughout the year from Monday to Friday (excluding Holy Week, between 24 December and 6 January and the summer period).
2. Time for consultation is decided on an individual basis, after a request has been made from the scholar. The Archive can be accessed in the mornings from Monday to Friday, and in the afternoons on Monday and Tuesday.

2. Consultation of the Archive

1. To consult the archive, a request must be sent by email to the Archivist, detailing name and surname, qualifications and profession, and the purpose and reason for the research.
2. Access to the archive should take place in accordance with the Holy See’s health norms.
3. University students, with the exception of doctoral research candidates, can be admitted to the reference material only for research related to their thesis, subject to the presentation of a letter of guarantee, written and signed by the supervising professor.
4. Scholars should bring and show their identification document on the day of consultation.
5. As a rule, only one scholar can be admitted on a given day, even when scholars are researching different topics.
6. In accordance with Norms regulating the Archives of the Holy See (Litterae apostolicae motu proprio datae, La cura vigilantissima, 21 March 2005), and with the provisions of His Holiness, Francis, scholars will not be able to access documents dated after the end of the Pontificate of Pius XII (9 October 1958).
7. In the event that sections of the Archive are quoted or copied in a publication, the scholar is bound to provide the Archive with a free copy in print and/or digital format.
8. University students of any level who are approved for consultation of the Archive for research related to writing a thesis for a degree are required to provide the Archive with a printed and/or digital copy of the thesis.

3. Copies

1. On a discretional basis, the Archive accepts requests of digital copies for private editorial and professional use. Requests should be made via a form to be handed in person or by email upon request.
2. The digital copies will be made by the photographic laboratory of the Liberian Archive. The costs of the service can be found in the price list for the supply and reproduction of images.
3. Applicants are called to provide the Archive with a sample, free of charge (in print and/or digital format), of all the work they publish that includes the images requested, to abstain from using the copies for profit and to respect the conditions for use detailed in the forms. Failure to do so will result in the loss of access to the Archive and prevent the candidate from making any further applications.
4. The captions and references of each published copy should be referenced with the following: © Capitolo di Santa Maria Maggiore.
5. It is strictly forbidden to make any copies during the consultation.


Summary Bibliography:

G. Ferri, Le carte dell'archivio Liberiano dal secolo X al XV, in Archivio della R. Società Romana di Storia Patria, 27, 1904, pp. 147-202, 441-459; 28, 1905, pp. 23-39; 30, 1907, pp. 119-168.

J. Coste, Il fondo medievale dell’Archivio di Santa Maria Maggiore, in Archivio della Società Romana di Storia Patria, 96, 1973, pp. 5-77.

V. Saxer, Sainte-Marie-Majeure. Une basilique de Rome dans l’histoire de la ville et de son Église (Ve-XIIIe siècle), Rome, École française de Rome, 2001.

Studia Liberiana. Studi e Documenti sulla Storia della Basilica Papale e del Capitolo di Santa Maria Maggiore. Edizioni Capitolo Liberiano, a cura di M. Jagosz, voll. XI, Roma: Lisanti, 2011-2017.

P. Radiciotti, Novità dagli archivi romani, in Archivio della Società Romana di Storia Patria, 125, 2002, pp. 33-42.

A. Corteggiani, Gli archivi liberiani. Annotazioni, aggiornamenti ed inventario sommario, in Archivio della Società Romana di Storia Patria, 125, 2002, pp. 251-280.

Guida ai fondi manoscritti, numismatici, a stampa della Biblioteca Vaticana, a cura di F. D’Aiuto, P. Vian, Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2011 («Studi e testi», 466), pp. 527-530; 887-888.


Historical Archive of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Via Liberiana, 27
00185 Roma

tel.: 06 69886809