Vatican Museum Showcases the History, Evolution of Radio

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Currents News Staff

Transmitters, telegraphs and waves are some of the beginnings of radio, and just a taste of what is contained in the Vatican’s Radio Museum.

It was February 1931 when Pope Paul XI first stepped foot in the same building where the museum now stands to make his very first transmission on radio. Now, the same microphone he used is on display to visitors.

It was a historic moment not only for the Vatican, but the world. This bit of history created by radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi, is protected within the Vatican at the museum.

“The old transmission machine was a Marconi shortwave transmitter in five kilowatts. In addition, there was a recording studio which is on the left,” explained Giorgio Patassini, a Collaborator at Vatican Radio.

“Thus, it was from here where Pope Pius’s first radio transmission was sent out,” he said of the original transmitter, which needed to be managed from within and required water so it wouldn’t overheat.

The original recording studio is just across from the transmitter, where a machine for morse codes is also on display. The machine serves to demonstrate the evolution from dots and dashes to musical notes on an airwave.

“After the First World War experiments were carried out to transmit voice. At that point, instead of being more bidirectional, between a receiver and a transmitter; it became unidirectional,” explained.

“So the signal could be launched in ether, depending on certain directions and forms. Whoever had a machine could hear it, so it no longer had to be two-way,” he added.

The museum also has a Thomas Edison cylinder phonograph showing one of the earliest examples.

From U.S. Army receivers and transmitters to testing out original equipment used at Vatican Radio, these prized possessions help show the progress to where radio is today.

While the Museum hasn’t been used as the headquarters for Vatican Radio for many years, it still has a purpose. FM Waves are located outside.