Unknown Icelandic Letters in Vatican Secret Archives? Skip to content

Unknown Icelandic Letters in Vatican Secret Archives?

Some suspect that unknown documents from 16th century Iceland are stored in the Vatican Secret Archives. A letter from Bishop Ögmundur Pálsson (1521-1541), the last Catholic bishop of Skálholt, dated during the reformation, was found there in 1976.

skalholt_esaSkálholt. Photo: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir/Iceland Review.

There may also be a letter from Bishop Jón Arason of Hólar (1484-1550), the last Catholic bishop in Iceland, where he asked the Catholic Church for help in his struggle with the King of Denmark and Lutherans.

Jón Arason was executed at Skálholt along with two of his sons in 1550, which marks the change to Lutheranism in Iceland.

Not all academics agree that documents of historical importance for Iceland can be found in the Vatican Secret Archives.

Ólafur Haukur Árnason, a master student of Latin and Greek at the University of Copenhagen, who studied philosophy in the Vatican, points out that a number of Nordic academics have already scrutinized the archives.

“Therefore I find the hope slim that some significant unknown source regarding the history of Iceland can still be found there,” Ólafur told Morgunblaðið.

However, Þorsteinn Kári Bjarnason, superior of the Vestmannaeyjar Library, finds it likely that such documents can be found in the Vatican Secret Archives, pointing out that as Iceland was so remote, they could have been stored in the wrong place.

“I saw, for example, data about Islandia among data about Spain, which is called Hispania in Latin. Iceland could possibly also have been confused with Ireland,” Þorsteinn stated.

Þorsteinn would like to have the research of an Icelandic academic in the Vatican Secret Archives funded.


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