The Heritage Collections

The VEC Archives are a valuable resource for the study of the history of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and indeed of English and Welsh presences in Rome since before the founding of the Hospice. The Heritage Collections and Archives contain papal bulls, vestments, works of art, music and architectural records, and a wealth of other historical material:

  • a substantial Archive of documents, letters, and diaries dating from 1362 and concerning important individuals associated with the College — the Stuarts, Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, St John Henry Newman, Cardinal William Allen, Pope Gregory XIII, Mgr Christopher Stonor, St Charles Borromeo, among many others
  • an irreplaceable collection of some 15,000 rare books in the fields of philosophy, science, astronomy, mathematics, theology, biblical studies, and ecclesiastical history
  • a specialist reference library of some 5,000 volumes devoted to the post-Reformation history of the English and Welsh Catholic community
  • an important collection of works of art
  • the North American Agency Papers, unknown to historians until 2017, relating to the early development of the Roman Catholic Church in North America.

The North American Agency Papers

From 1821 to 1835, the North American Agency was based at the VEC in Rome. Under this arrangement, successive Rectors of the VEC acted as agents of the American Catholic hierarchy, serving as “middle men” between them and the various departments of the papal Curia in Rome. The so-called North American Agency Papers within the VEC Archives include 135 letters relating to affairs in Baltimore (1821-1834), the first diocese of the United States, and, for many years, its most influential. There are also 23 letters (1829-1835) relating to the then recently established diocese of Philadelphia.

There is much Canadian material, too, with 411 folios on ecclesiastical affairs relating largely to Québec, covering the period from 1817 to 1833.

These sources contribute to a deeper understanding of the complex yet robust evolution of the Church in North America during some of its most formative years.

Tales from the Archives

The VEC Archives are a living, breathing record of the Catholic Church through the centuries and across geographies. They are constantly presenting new insights, revealing hidden connections, and offering fresh historical perspective. There are always new stories to be told; and you can find them at our Tales from the Archives blog.

The Heritage Collections are at present a much under-used resource in the fields of Catholic Higher Education and Heritage Studies. Despite impressive recent progress there remains much work to be done in the Collections. Conservation efforts are required to preserve many of the Collections’ rare books, for instance, and the most significant records need to be digitized to make them available internationally to researchers and students. Presentation and cataloguing methods also need to be updated to do justice to the Archives’ significance.

If you would like to help us preserve and develop our Heritage Collections and Archives please click here.

Some useful links

Learn more about progress made, ongoing projects, and pressing needs with the Heritage Collections & Archives at

There is an excellent reference tool at for anyone seeking information and guidance about:

  1. The preservation of archives, libraries and museums, particularly in a religious context,
  2. sources for the study of the history of the English and Welsh Catholic community at home and abroad.