Vatican City is a very small city-state within Rome, where the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is located. Considering its long history and it’s religious influence exerted all around the world, an aura of mysticism and controversy formed around it, making it subject for conspiracy theories long debated in books, movies and documentaries. Although many of them are plain untrue and easy to debunk, some are considered myths simply because there is no real evidence to support the theories.
In this article, we will explore some of the most common myths and misconceptions about the Vatican and will offer the facts associated with each one.
⛏️ Myth: The Vatican has an underground network of secret tunnels
Fact: While its true that there are passages underneath the Vatican, their existence is no secret. It’s a well known fact that in times of war or danger, Popes used the tunnels to escape and save their lives. There is even a passageway – named Passetto di Borgo – that connects the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo. Nowadays, the undergrounds are used for storage, exhibition rooms or utility infrastructures.
🏆 Myth: The process of electing a new Pope is shrouded in mystery
Fact: New Popes are elected by the College of Cardinals, following a specific procedure. These steps are dictated by the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, therefore the process is public and transparent. Click here to learn more about the step-by-step process of electing a new Pope.
✝️ Myth: The Pope has unlimited power within the Catholic Church
Fact: Although the Pope is head of the Catholic Church and is the most respected figure among all the clergy, he doesn’t have absolute authority. The Pope’s role has its limitations and he must collaborate with other leaders within the church to make decisions.
🌐 Myth: The Vatican has the power to influence global political and economic decisions
Fact: While it’s not uncommon for the Pope to send its thoughts and prayers in the case of tragedies, wars or important global events, the Vatican is not affiliated politically in any way and it is also not involved in economic affairs. Even if the Pope addresses an issue, the statement is made from a religious standpoint and it’s meant to provide moral guidance.
📜 Myth: The Vatican houses a secret library with lost ancient knowledge
Fact: While the Vatican does have in its possessions a large collection of documents, manuscripts and books, some of which are very rare and valuable, there is no solid information about a secret library, other than pure speculations and legends. Scholars and researchers can consult the Vatican Library freely and a large part of its contents have been digitized and can be accessed online.
🤑 Myth: The Vatican has unlimited financial resources
Fact: Of course, it’s no secret that the Vatican has some wealth, but the numbers are not that high as many people think. The Vatican heavily relies on donations and museum admissions as its sources of income, as well as real estate management and various investments. Still, it’s hard to assess the real wealth of the Vatican, considering that it has in its possession many art pieces and artifacts that are hard to tag with a price.
🤫 Myth: The Vatican is home to many secret societies
Fact: Despite the rumors that the Vatican is where some hidden organizations carry out their activity, there is no solid evidence to support these claims. The Vatican is indeed home to several religious orders and organizations, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans. Still, these groups are public about their beliefs and activities, therefore, can not be labeled to be secret societies.
😈 Myth: Exorcisms and other supernatural events take place inside the Vatican
Fact: Although some people claimed to have witnessed unexplained phenomena in the Vatican over the years, this is not something that also something that was ever backed up by evidence. Fans of the supernatural horror genre seem to enjoy the speculations though. Movies and books alike tapped into the subject and perpetuated the spooky rumors. For example, the movie The Rite (2011) depicts the alleged exorcism practices that take place at the Vatican and it is presented as based on true events, when it’s only source is one man’s testimony. In 2018, the Vatican openly announced an exorcism training course for priests, but the classes were pure theoretical as far as we know and there weren’t conducted any live demos.
The Vatican is for many a place that gate-keeps secrets and ancient knowledge. Considering its long history and religious affiliation it’s easy to understand why it was the subject of so many conspiracy theories. Although some of them are just a result of misinformation, some continue to be myths just because there is a lack of clear evidence to support them. We invite you to do your own research from reliable sources of information, while still keeping an open mind. And if you know any other myths or misconceptions that target the Vatican and deserve to be on this list, let everybody know in the comments below and we will take it into consideration to discuss it.