The Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI) — the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus — constitute the archives of the central government of the Jesuits. While the archival holdings of the ARSI reveal the transnational character of the Society of Jesus from the sixteenth century to the present, they however reflect a more centralised approach to governance structures within the Jesuit order. Hence archives pertaining to local Jesuit contexts are better located within the archival holdings of local Jesuit provinces and their institutions. Nevertheless, the ARSI does work to establish a collaborative network of Jesuit archives worldwide.1 Apart from the central and local province archival holdings, archives related to the Jesuits are also located within a host of other church institutions like the Vatican Archives, former and current Jesuit universities and institutions, government archives as well as within private collections.

For an insight into the Jesuit archival holdings at the ARSI, listen to an interview with Brian MacCuarta SJ, the Director of ARSI.2

 

Access

The ARSI is open to researchers throughout the year, barring a few holidays. Researchers are expected to provide their credentials along with a letter of recommendation, the first time that they visit these archives.

Access to the ARSI archives are currently restricted to until 10 February 1939 (death of Pope Pius XI) and will in 2020 open up to until 9 October 1958 (death of Pope Pius XII).3

 

Archives

Archival holdings at the ARSI could broadly be divided into four broad sections:4

    • Pre-suppression phase (1540-1773)
    • Post-restoration phase (1814 onwards)
    • Fondo Gesuitico (archives of the General Procurator)[^5]
    • Varia (archives not classified within the above three sections)

The ARSI provides detailed inventories of its archival holdings. These indexes are accessible to researchers either as printed manuscripts or through the local digital network within the ARSI. Some of these indexes have also been catalogued and published.

Being an archive pertaining to the central government of the Jesuits, the ARSI holds institutional documents and manuscripts regarding the establishment of the Jesuits and its institutions — the Institute, the Constitutions, the Spiritual Exercises as also the writings of Ignatius of Loyola and his companions — its history and spirituality. The acts of the General, Provincial and Procurators’ Congregations, documents from the various Secretariats and Commissions of the General Curia in Rome as well as its relations with the Holy See contribute to the institutional character of the archives of the Society of Jesus.

Another major part of these holdings includes correspondence that was directed to and from its headquarters in Rome. While this correspondence includes certain genres like the litterae annuae, Indipetae, historia domus as well as more general letters of requests, permissions and instructions; they also detail much of the social and political contexts of the Jesuit missions. Archival holdings concerning Jesuit personalia like formulas of final vows, biographies and necrologies complement a substantial part of the Jesuit Archives. The Jesuit catalogues that document the circulation of men and the nature of their activities then not only become a manifestation of the Jesuit enterprise, but also the starting point for any research on the Society of Jesus.

The writings on and by the Jesuits in the form of manuscripts and printed books form a considerable part of the archival holdings at the ARSI. A substantial collection of architectural plans, maps, photographs, seals, medals and other artefacts add up to these archives.

 

Digital Archives

While the above Jesuit Archives need to be physically consulted, the ARSI has digitised some significant archival holdings which act as interpretative keys to its vast collection. Some of these digital collections — available through its website — have been listed below.

  • Synopsis historiae Societatis Iesu: A 400-year synopsis of the history of the Society of Jesus from 1540-1940 (J B Goetstouwers SJ, 1950) | Download
  • Data Chronologica: Chronologies of Jesuit provinces from 1774-1958 (J Fejer SJ, J de Cock SJ, 1958) | Download
  • Diccionario Histórico: Historical Dictionary of the Society of Jesus (Charles O’Neill SJ, Joaquin Dominguez SJ, 2001) | Download
  • Bibliography: Jesuit Bibliography, 1901-2017 (László Polgár SJ, 1981; Paul Begheyn SJ, 1996) | Download
  • Jesuit Glossary: A guide to understanding the terms that appear within the documents of the Society of Jesus (Wiktor Gramatowski SJ, 1992; trans. Camilla Russell, 2013) | Download
  • Atlas Geographicus Societatis Iesu: An atlas of the history of the Society of Jesus from the mid-sixteenth to the end of the nineteenth century (Ludwig Carrez SJ, 1900) | Download
  • Des Domiciles: The “Documents pour servir à l’histoire des domiciles de la Compagnie de Jésus dans le monde entier de 1540 à 1773” collates a list of Jesuit residences between 1540-1773. (Alfred Hamy SJ, 1892) | Download
  • Catalogues: The catalogues lists Jesuit residences and institutions along with the Jesuits working within them, with brief notes about the nature of their work and some basic biographical data. These catalogues are generally prepared by individual Jesuit provinces. Besides these, the Jesuits also prepared the Catalogus Defunctorum that detailed the deaths of Jesuits.

Apart from these tools, the website hosts a few guides and finding aids to some specialised collections within the archives.

  • Fondo Gesuitico Collegia: an inventory of Collegia (institutions) founded by the Society of Jesus between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. | Download
  • Indipetae: an index of letters (1583-1773) by individual Jesuits requesting the Jesuit Superior General to send them to work in missions beyond Europe. | Download
  • Opera Nostrorum: an index of works by Jesuits on various subjects like history, theology, literature and the sciences. | Download
  • Fondo Apostolato della Preghiera (1847-1969): an inventory related to the fond of the Apostleship of Prayer, a prayer movement established by the Jesuits for the propagation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
    • Inventario Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione antica | Download
    • Indici Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione antica | Download
    • Inventario Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione moderna Vol I (1-292) | Download
    • Inventario Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione moderna Vol II (293-543) | Download
    • Indici Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione moderna | Download
    • Inventario Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione iconografica Vol I (1-532) | Download
    • Inventario Apostolato della Preghiera – sezione iconografica Vol II (533-1077) | Download
  • Fondo P Jan Philip Roothaan SJ (1785-1853): an inventory of documents concerning Jan Philip Roothaan SJ (1785-1853), the XXI superior general (1829-1853) of the Society of Jesus.
    • Vol. I Vita – Scritti filosofici | Download
    • Vol. II Corrispondenza e miscellanea | Download
    • Vol. III Indice | Download

The Chinese Books within the Japonica-Sinica collection within the ARSI consist of 451 primarily Chinese texts. A part of this collection has been digitised and is available in Open Access.

 

Publications

While the ARSI has principally been a Jesuit Archive, it now oversees the publications of the Jesuit Historical Institute, namely, the Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu (IHSI) that has engaged with the publication of Jesuit sources, monographs and a journal. As with the archives, the ARSI also works to establish a collaborative network of Jesuit historians and historical institutes.5

  • Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI): The MHSI consists of critically-edited Jesuit sources, primarily of the early Society of Jesus. A large collection of the MHSI has been digitised and are available for download in Open Access.
  • Bibliotheca Instituti Historici Societatis Iesu (BIHSI): The BIHSI is a monograph series on Jesuit history and culture.
  • Subsidia ad Historiam Societatis Iesu (SAHSI): The SAHSI is a series that provides research tools for Jesuit history in the form of catalogues, bibliographies and other indices.
  • Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu (AHSI): The AHSI is a biannual journal devoted to Jesuit history and culture, since 1932. Some of its past issues have been made available in Open Access: Vol. I-VIII (1932-39), Vol. IX-XXIX (1940-60), Vol. LIX-LXIV (1990-1995), Vol. LXV-LXIX (1996-2000), Vol. LXX-LXXI (2001-2002), Vol. LXXII-LXXV (2003-2006), Vol. LXXVI-LXXXII (2007-2013).

 

Contact

ARSI
Borgo S. Spirito 4
00193 Roma
Italy

(The entrance to the ARSI is located at Borgo S. Spirito 8.)

Phone: +39-06.69868.641
arsi-seg@sjcuria.org

www.sjweb.info/arsi

 


Rinald D’Souza
25 September 2019


  1. “Creating a collaborative network of the Archives of the Society”, Curia Generalizia della Compagnia di Gesù, News, 14 February 2019, https://sjcuria.global/en/more-other-news/444-creating-a-collaborative-network-of-the-archives-of-the-society (accessed on 25 September 2019) 
  2. Lydia O’Kane, “Jesuit Archives: Treasure trove of history”, Archivio Radio Vaticana, 21 September 2016, http://www.archivioradiovaticana.va/storico/2016/09/21/jesuit_archives_treasure_trove_of_history/en-1259625 (accessed on 25 September 2019) 
  3. The ARSI access policies follow norms laid down by the Vatican Archives whereby archival holdings are periodized into fonds pertaining to pontificates and released 70 years after the death of that pope. However, Pope Francis recently announced the early opening of the archives of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII on 2 March 2020. | Read more: Rinald D’Souza, “The Shift in the Vatican Archives”, Historia Domus, 10 March 2019, https://historiadomus.net/2019/03/10/the-shift-in-the-vatican-secret-archives (accessed on 25 September 2019) 
  4. Robert Danieluk SJ presents archival documents concerning three seventeenth-century Polish Jesuit missionaries to China and precedes them with a descriptive introduction to the Roman Jesuit Archives, thus providing a prospective researcher with methodological possibilities in investigating Jesuit sources. | Read more: Robert Danieluk. “Michał Boym, Andrzej Rudomina and Jan Smogulecki — Three Seventeenth Century Missionaries in China: A Selection of Documents from the Roman Jesuit Archives.” Monumenta Serica 59.1 (2011): 417-43. 
  5. “Jesuit Historians can be young men”, Curia Generalizia della Compagnia di Gesù, News, 22 February 2019, https://sjcuria.global/en/more-other-news/448-jesuit-historians-can-be-young-men (accessed on 25 September 2019)