Pope’s List

For the 400 years of proscription list existence, more than 5000 books were tabooed and only in 1966 Vatican abolished the taboos letting its flock to read prohibited beforehand books.

It is also being known that apart from famous authors such as Gustave Flaubert (“Madame Bovary”) or Victor Hugo (“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”) proscription list could be replenished with a simple dictionary if some of the clergymen would find some undesirable for the church word or phrase.

The turning point for the studies of these taboos became the 1988 year when Vatican officially made its archives from the beginning of the 19th century and until the first half of the 20th century accessible by the public. Even though the abolition of this list happened earlier yet in 1965.

Cardinal Ottaviani said that the main reason for the List abolition is due to its useless nature because, according to his opinion, it included little known books from the last centuries which  no one was reading anyway. This statement indicates his fantastic unawareness. For example, the latest updates to the List were directed against Sartre’s and Alberto Moravia’s works.  

If we look at the methods the specially created commission was using for so-called lists and indexes’ creation, we would see how unsystematic they are. As usually, anonymous whistle blows against authors served as a pretext for taboo. So what was an outcome? Censors just didn’t pay attention at works written by Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Machiavelli.  However, may be there’s another reason? The Church didn’t consider it as a priority to go for nit-picking by studying atheists books whose reasoning was in contradiction with its tenets a priori anyway.

The first Index was composed and published in 1529 and became an example for the later Roman List created by the personal Pius the IV edict in 1559. The funny thing about it that the works of his Holiness appeared in this List as well when he was cardinal Carafa. Surely, this List was  rejected and sent back to be reworked. And what is not less interesting that the works written by Bellarmino, the main Giordano Bruno’s prosecutor also joined the List.


Besides that, there was a strict literature division into 3 types:

  • Works being tabooed straight after they saw the light because their authors were already in Vatican’s disgrace
  • Specific works
  • Bible’s translations to national languages (English, French, Dutch), different heretical Bible’s interpretations

According to the many scientists’ opinion, such an approach against knowledge led Europe to the cultural decay casting it to the side of intellectual life.

To illustrate it let’s have a look at 2 examples:


Regardless of sufficient theoretical foundations from antic doctors’ and scientists’ works of Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna for further medical knowledge development, since 1215 upon an edict of Roman throne, monks were forbidden to perform operations as far as the church called upon to avoid an accent on earthly life relying on the beginning of true life in the kingdom of heaven.

Barbers and bath attendants started being engaged into surgery, were not against phlebotomizing, and were not afraid of enema. Autopsies were tabooed because according to the idea of the Resurrection it would be an obstacle on the way of the dead to revive when Judgement Day arrives. Surgeons were not recognized as doctors and were not accepted by universities. The ones who were theorizing and writing books on medical matters did not understand quite good how the human bodies are designed. Only in the 18th century, the first surgical Academy was opened in Paris.


The Holy Writ enjoyed prestige and authority above all sciences. In accordance with Christian Dogma the Universe was regarded as God’s creation out of nothingness and destined to disappear some time. Thereof, the theoretical achievements of antic philosophy about the World’s eternity were casted away. The geocentric model of Aristotle and Ptolemy are being reconsidered. The system of homocentric bodies the center of which is the Earth with spinning around it other planets and star’s sphere further with crystal sky – this is how the Universe was regarded.

When it comes to geography, Jerusalem was considered to be the Earth Centre. The mountain on the East was an earthly heaven with 4 riverheads of Tiger, Euphrates, Ganges and   Nile.

It means that knowledge accumulated by ancient people was replaced by figments.

Longtime Europeans didn’t know what was going on outside Europe and were making up stories about faraway countries with midgets and imaginary animals.

From the 17th century when catholic church influence has slowly started to drop consequently making the Index authority weaker, the science not only became an independent phenomenon but some of its spheres underwent real revolutions.  

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