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Vincent de Paul, the Congregation of the Mission, and the Papacy: Documents from the Vatican Archives (1625-1670)

The original Vatican documents project presented an annotated catalogue of letters and other primary sources from early modern Europe and Africa, tracing the development of Vincent de Paul’s Congregation of the Mission over the course of the 17th century. The documents listed in this collection are drawn from the Vatican archives and illustrate the missionary activities of the Congregation from its inception (1625) to the first few years following the death of its founder, Vincent de Paul (1581-1660). They underscore a rich and complex relationship with the Roman Curia and highlight the role of the Papacy in shaping early modern religious, cultural and political frontiers in the context of the Catholic Reformation.

About the project

Find out more about the project team responsible for this project, the abbreviations used and document authorship.

User guide

The data in this catalogue can be viewed in several ways. The List of Documents view provides a general inventory of the items included in this collection, which can be sorted by document type, author, recipient, and date. The Timeline and Map viewing options offer chronological and geographic visualisations of the collection.

Detailed information about every item in this catalogue—including document descriptions and summaries—is provided on the Detailed View page. For many documents, a partial or integral transcription of the original text, in the original language, will shortly become available.

All viewing options allow searching by keyword. Data can also be browsed by sender and recipient surname, place of origination and destination, source repository and collection, and keyword (see the Facets menu on the right).

The content is freely available for fair use under the Creative Commons Attribute-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike license. Database development followed TEI Guidelines and is presented using the Exhibit Framework from MIT's SIMILE project.

This is a growing collection and a work in progress. Both the number of items and the number of original text transcriptions will significantly increase in the following few months, so be sure to check again for new additions to the list.


Most of the documents listed in this collection fall in the following categories: correspondence between members of the Congregation of the Mission, various papal institutions, and the apostolic nuncios active in France and other countries; petitions submitted to the Roman Curia on behalf of members of the Congregation of the Mission; minutes of meetings evaluating those petitions; papal, royal, and other types of decrees; foundational documents and contracts forwarded to the Pope for confirmation or approval; notes and memos written for internal purposes by secretaries and lesser clerks of various papal offices or congregations; mission reports written by members of the Congregation of the Mission; and prints with theological themes.

The sources listed in this database are held in the Historical Archives ‘de Propaganda Fide’ (Archivio Storico ‘de Propaganda Fide’, via Urbano VIII, 16, Rome) and the Vatican Secret Archives (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Vatican City). Research in the latter repository yielded only a small amount of relevant sources for the period under scrutiny, but the Historical Archives ‘de Propaganda Fide’ (ASPF) proved a much more fertile ground for this project—especially the Acta, Lettere, and SOCG (‘Scritture originali riferite nelle congregazioni generali’) collections.


The topic of this project originated with Dr Alison Forrestal of the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), who envisioned it as a component of her larger research project: ‘Vincent de Paul: An Icon in the Making’, funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Thanks to Dr Forrestal’s guidance, IRCHSS funding, and the logistical support provided by the Moore Institute at NUIG, I was able to spend approximately five months between September 2009 and August 2010 reading, selecting, and collecting documents in Rome and Vatican City. The remaining period of the fellowship was spent transcribing, translating, and processing the documents, preparing the machine-readable versions, and processing and collating the data. The catalogue in its current shape would not have been possible without the vision and technical expertise generously offered by the Digital Humanities Observatory of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. I would also like to make special mention of the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff of the Historical Archives ‘de Propaganda Fide’ (Archivio Storico ‘de Propaganda Fide’ in Rome), who went out of their way to help make my research efficient and comfortable; working there was a true pleasure.


As of August 30, 2013, the activities of Digital Humanities Observatory have ceased and since then, the original website for the Vincent de Paul, the Congregation of the Mission, and the Papacy: Documents from the Vatican Archives (1625-1670) has been unpublished. As a result, the files necessary to enable individuals to run this site themselves are available as a downloadable zip. Please see below instructions for details.


"This site uses a JavaScript framework called Exhibit ( developed by MIT. In order to work, the data, stored in a file called data.json, must be hosted on a web server. For this reason, most of the site content and functionality will not be available when hosting the entire site locally on a user's own computer.  To enable the full functionality of this site, the site should be hosted on a web server.  Ensure the following:

  1. Unzip the website using your prefered software package.
  2. Ensure you have access to a web server (this would usually be hosted on a hosting service such as Blacknight or a Cloud-based solution such as Amazon Web Services).
  3. Copy the entire contents of the website to an accessible location on your web server (either in or below the web root) using an FTP client (such as WinSCP or Cyberduck).
  4. Access the site by navigating to the index.html page, e.g.

Alternatively, if you do not want to access the full site externally, you can host only the site data file externally. You will still need access to a web server, but you need only copy the data.json file to your web server. If you do this:

  1. Take note of the fully qualified web address of this file, e.g.
  2. In every HTML file where the line: <link href="data.json" type="application/json" rel="exhibit/data" /> appears, replace the reference to the data file with the new location, e.g.: <link href="" type="application/json" rel="exhibit/data" />

Please note that due to changes in the licensing model for Google Maps, mapping functionality may not work as intended.

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