“The Inestimable Value of Manuscripts”: a recent publication describes the treasures of the Magistral Archives
Correspondence, Magistral decrees, Sovereign Council minutes, cabrei – volumes describing and illustrating the Order’s agricultural real estate – and account books. In addition to the documents produced for entry into the Order, such as family trees, parchments dating back to the Middle Ages, seals and coats of arms. These epitomize the immense resources of the Order of Malta’s Archives kept inside the Magistral Palace in Rome. We’re talking about a collection of documents in continual communication, even today, with the archives of institutions worldwide, illustrated for the first time in the book “Il valore inestimabile delle Carte. L’Archivio del Sovrano Ordine di Malta e la sua storia: un primo esperimento di ricostruzione” (“The Inestimable Value of Manuscripts. The Sovereign Order of Malta’s Archive and its History: an initial attempt at reconstruction”)
The Sovereign Order of Malta has a fascinating and rich history, as testified to by the countless documents produced over the centuries recounting its vicissitudes and reflecting its many upheavals and changing fortunes.
It was in 1428 that a first central archive was created on Rhodes, thanks to the insight of Grand Master Fra’ Antonio de Fluvian. In 1530 this archive was then moved to Malta, where the Order remained until the French troops arrived in 1798, after which it had to abandon both the island and its archive. In 1834, after its subsequent pilgrimage in Italy – from Messina to Catania and Ferrara – the Order finally settled in the Magistral Palace in Via Condotti, Rome. Up to 1631 this had been the residence of the Order’s Embassy to the Holy See and the relative diplomatic correspondence is still kept here. Starting from the end of the 17th century, part of the archives of the Priory of Rome and of the Ricetta of Rome, which administered its possessions, were “superimposed” on this initial collection of documents and diplomatic papers.
With the definitive arrival of the Order’s Grand Magistry in Rome in the first half of the 19th century, the documents of the itinerant Chancery produced in the Italian seats after leaving Malta, and naturally those produced by the newly created administrative offices still active today, were added to the original collection.
Over the last ten years, the in-depth survey of the Magistral Archives has revealed that the reorganization during the second half of the 20th century was according to subject criteria. This means that the archival documents were dispersed without respecting their provenance.
During the research carried out for this publication, already available on-line on this site, it was discovered that the present Magistral Archives also conserve part of the ancient documentation of all the Order’s Italian Priories.
Following these discoveries, a project was launched for reorganizing, cataloguing and making an inventory of the historical part of the Magistral Archives up to the first half of the 19th century, to define the links between the lost papers and dialogue between their protagonists. The aim of the plan is to render this collection of documents available for multidisciplinary research.
To see the publication: Collectanea II