The Vatican's centuries-old library plans to close for three years from mid-July to carry out necessary renovations, a spokesperson told AFP on Thursday.
The "secret" archives, however, as well as the library's microfiche service, will remain available to scholars throughout the period, he was quick to add.
Rome's international historical and religious research community was caught up short by the news, since the Vatican did not announce the closure, although its website mentions it.
The main reading room will be emptied of its thousands of volumes and ancient manuscripts, and the book maintenance and restoration laboratories will be moved during the period.
The apostolic library, one of the world's oldest, dates back to the earliest years of the papacy, although the official date of its foundation is 1450.
It houses nearly 1,6 million old and new books, 8 300 incunabula including several dozen parchment scrolls, more than 150 000 archive manuscripts and documents, as well as 300 000 coins and medals and 20,000 art objects.
The secret archives, which have been open to qualified scholars since the late 19th century, include sensitive items such as the appeal of King Henry VIII of England to Pope Clement VII for an annulment.
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