The Vatican Secret Archives (Latin: Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum; Italian: Archivio Segreto Vaticano) is the central repository in the Vatican City for all of the acts promulgated by the Holy See.
The Pope, as Sovereign of Vatican City and having primal incumbency, owns the archives until his death or resignation, with ownership passing to his successor. The archives also contain the state papers, correspondence, papal account books and many other documents which the church has accumulated over the centuries.
In the 17th century, under the orders of Pope Paul V, the Secret Archives were separated from the Vatican Library, where scholars had some very limited access to them, and remained closed to outsiders until 1881, when Pope Leo XIII opened them to researchers, more than a thousand of whom now examine some of its documents each year.
The entrance to the Archives, adjacent to the Vatican Library, is through the Porta di S. Anna in via di Porta Angelica (rione of Borgo). New underground storage space was added in 1980. Qualified scholars from institutions of higher education pursuing scientific researches, with an adequate knowledge of archival research, may apply for an entry card. Scholars need an introductory letter by either a recognized institute of research or by a suitably qualified person in the field of historical research.