About Vatican City

Vatican City, a small independent state in Rome, Italy, serves as the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is the world’s smallest autonomous state, just over 100 acres. 

Despite its small size, Vatican City is home to various cultural, historical, and artistic treasures. 

It is a center for diplomatic relations, art, and religious pilgrimages. 

This holy region is considered sacred by millions of believers around the world. 

Visitors gather there during important religious occasions like Christmas and Easter.

With its magnificent architecture and deep religious heritage, Vatican City is a tribute to the Roman Catholic Church.

In this article, let’s explore more about Vatican City, from its fascinating history to its current glory and popularity.

History of the Vatican City

So, on our journey to dig deep into Vatican City, we first need to understand the History of Vatican City.

The City has a significant history with so many takes and stories to tell. 

So, let’s start from the beginning. 

Early History (1 AD to 5 AD)

Before the 1st century AD, the area was known as Ager Vaticanus. 

Later, Vaticanus emerged, signifying a far smaller area, including Vatican Hill and St. Peter’s Square. 

The construction of the Constantinian basilica over St Peter’s grave in 326 resulted in an increased settlement in the nearby area. 

During his tenure in the 5th century, Pope Symmachus had a palace built at this location.

Papal States (756 to 1870)

Throughout history, the role of popes has evolved to encompass not just spiritual duties but also secular governance in Rome.

They were in charge of the Papal States, a group of Italian Peninsula provinces, from 756 to 1870. 

Interestingly, the Vatican was not their primary residence for most of this time. 

Instead, they spent almost a thousand years living in the Lateran Palace on the other side of Rome. 

They briefly spent time at Avignon, France, between 1309 and 1377. 

They decided to settle in the Vatican when they returned to Rome. 

The popes briefly resided in the Quirinal Palace in 1583 until the unification of Italy in 1870, when they returned to the Vatican.

Roman Question and the Lateran Treaty (1870 to 1929)

In 1870, Rome fell to the combined forces led by Piedmont, risking the Pope’s holdings with some initial resistance from the papal soldiers. 

This event marked the beginning of the “Roman Question,” an era expanding from 1861 to 1929, during which the Pope’s position was uncertain. 

However, the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy signed the Lateran Treaty on 11 February 1929. 

Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and Cardinal Secretary Pietro Gasparri signed this historic agreement. 

The treaty established Vatican City as a separate state and maintained Catholic Christianity’s particular position in Italy. 

On 7 June 1929, the treaty’s stipulations came into effect.

World War II (1939 to 1945)

During World War II, the Holy See, which governs Vatican City, took a neutral position under the leadership of Pope Pius XII. 

The policy of neutrality was upheld during the capture of Rome by German troops in September 1943 and the arrival of Allied forces in 1944.

Surprisingly, both sides recognized Vatican City as a neutral territory. 

The US military, in particular, noticed this neutrality and exempted Catholic pilots and crews from undertaking strikes on Rome and other Church assets unless a specific agreement was in place.

Post-War History (1945 and after)

During World War II, Pope Pius XII chose not to appoint new cardinals. 

However, in early 1946 after the war, he appointed 32 cardinals, as stated in his Christmas letter the year before. 

In 1995, Italian environmental groups and politicians opposed the Vatican’s plan to build a new guest house near St. Peter’s Basilica.

They criticized the initiative, expressing concern about its environmental impact. 

This disagreement caused tension between the Vatican and the Italian government for a while.

Vatican City Today

Vatican City Today
Image: History.com

Vatican City, with a population of only 1,000, is still a pure monarchy today. 

It is a cultural and historical gem because it is home to the world’s most well-known cathedrals and museums. 

Millions of people visit this tiny paradise to see the famous Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the biggest churches, and many more.

Where Does the Name Vatican City Come From?

On 11 February 1929, the Lateran Treaty established the modern state of Vatican City, identified after Vatican Hill.

The name “Vatican” comes from an Etruscan settlement called Vatica or Vaticum, located in Ager Vaticanus, a territory.

Vatican City Economy

The Vatican City State’s economy is based on various revenue sources, including selling stamps, coins, and souvenirs.

In addition, Vatican City is home to a pharmacy and various businesses like printing and mosaic production.

The Institute for Works of Religion, also known as the Vatican Bank, is a monetary body within the Vatican. 

It offers services such as bilingual ATMs and is the only bank worldwide that provides instructions in Latin.

Key Information about Vatican City

So, if you are also planning a trip to Vatican City or just curious about this city of wonders – Here is some vital information about Vatican City:

Vatican City Population:

The Vatican City State has a total population of 825 people, of which only 246 live within its borders, including 104 Swiss Guards members. 

Approximately half of all citizens choose to live outside the country due to service commitments. 

People living and working for the Vatican are eligible for Vatican citizenship. Birth or ancestry is not the deciding factor.

Along with Holy See officials, cardinals residing in Vatican City or Rome are considered citizens. 

However, citizenship can only be passed down to children and is recovered after the term of office. 

Notably, the Vatican allows dual citizenship in addition to Vatican citizenship.

Religion

The whole population of Vatican City comprises of Christians. The Vatican City’s official religion is catholicism. 

As the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and the residence of the Pope, Vatican City holds an important position. 

The Pope serves as both the head of the Bishop of Rome and the Roman Catholic Church. 

He also serves as the head of the Vatican City State. According to Catholic beliefs, the Pope is the successor to St. Peter, who Jesus selected as the first head of the Church. 

This succession is considered a continuation of the authority given to St. Peter by Jesus, establishing him as the first head of the Church.

Geography

Vatican City lies on a short hill that was previously part of the historic Vatican Hill, close to the right bank of the Tiber River. 

This hill was the location of multiple villas before the birth of Christ. 

Walls partly surround the 44 hectares of the Vatican City State’s territory. 

At the edge of St. Peter’s Square, where the arcade’s outer borders meet the ground, a strip of travertine stretches, marking the state’s border.

Typically, this section of the square is open to the public.

Culture

The Vatican City is known for having St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s biggest church, and the Vatican Museums, home to a collection of art. 

Without a doubt, Vatican City is significant culturally. 

Important historical, scholarly, and cultural materials are in the Vatican Library. 

Surprisingly, the Vatican was the first country to become part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1984. 

In addition, the Vatican is the de facto custodian of the Latin language. 

The country is a monarchy, and religion plays a major role in shaping its culture and character.

Vatican City Language

Italian is the official language of Vatican City and is used for all official documents, financial transactions, and diplomatic relations. 

The Holy See uses Latin as its official language, with Italian as the lingua franca. 

Additionally, French is used as a diplomatic language on occasion. 

Commands within the Swiss Guard are issued in Swiss German. However, each guard takes an oath of loyalty in their native tongue.

Vatican City Flag

The Vatican City flag, often known as the papal flag, comprises two vertical yellow (towards the hoist) and white fabric stripes. 

The crossed keys, representing the keys to heaven, are placed in the center of the flag, with the Tiara, or Triple Crown, placed above them. 

The flag’s hoist has a spear with a cockade in the same yellow and white colors as the flag with gold trimmings. 

In ancient times, the Papal States’ flag was yellow and crimson, representing the Senate and traditional Roman colors.

Currency

The Vatican is a sovereign, independent nation with its own money. 

Vatican coins are recognized as legal tender internationally because of an agreement with the Italian government. 

Despite not being a part of the European Union or the Eurozone, Vatican City was granted permission to use the euro as its official currency in 2000. 

The Vatican Euro, on the other hand, is common as it contains an image of the Pope on the reverse side, establishing it as the money of an autonomous state.

Climate

The Vatican enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, much like Rome. 

The winters in the Vatican are moderate and rainy, ranging from September to May. Summer is hot and dry from May to August. 

The Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, located outside of the Vatican, has historically served as a place for the Popes to escape the heat.

Best Time to Visit Vatican

The ideal time to visit the Vatican would be between September to October. 

The Vatican City weather would be lovely and cool.

And if you visit between September and October, you will also find significantly less crowd compared to peak season. 

Vatican City’s Pontifical Hymn

The State of Vatican City has its national anthem because it is a recognized sovereign state on an international level. 

Since October 16, 1949, the Pontifical March composed by Charles Gounod has held this distinction, as decided by Pope Pius XII.

The hymn serves as a musical representation of Vatican City’s official position and is performed during major events.

Why should you visit Vatican City?

  • Vatican City showcases various architectural styles, with the predominant one being Renaissance. However, you can also find examples of Baroque and Late Renaissance architecture within its boundaries. 
  • The Vatican museums include 1400 rooms, relics, and works of art going back over 3000 years. 
  • Visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s biggest church. 
  • Explore the Vatican Gardens, which take up half of the Vatican City. It has fountains, a cactus garden, and historical structures.

Things To Do In Vatican City

The Vatican is home to world-renowned art and historical buildings. 

So, if you are planning to visit the Vatican, here are a few things to do in Vatican City:

1.Visit Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums, created by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century and then expanded by successive popes, are home to many artworks. 

Egyptian mummies, Etruscan bronzes, antique busts, works by old artists, and modern artworks are just a few of the various items on display. 

In the Vatican Museums, these treasures are displayed in 54 galleries, taking visitors on an amazing journey.

2.Visit St Peter’s Basilica

The beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica, considered Italy’s most stunning, is incomparable to any other cathedral in the city. 

It was completed in 1626 after 120 years of construction and replaced a 4th-century church in Rome. 

The inside of St. Peter’s Basilica contains an array of fine artworks, including some of Italy’s most recognized masterpieces. 

Its architecture and outstanding art collection make it an unmatched attraction for visitors.

3.Visit Vatican Gardens

The Vatican stands above the mild slopes of Vatican Hill, situated on the Tiber River’s western bank. 

The Vatican Gardens, which cover most of the 109-acre estate, add to the attractiveness of this amazing setting. 

The Vatican Gardens provide an oasis of calm among the busy city and its packed streets. 

Away from the rush of the city, these calm environments can provide a sense of calm and peacefulness.

4.Visit Vatican Palaces

The papal palace is in the Vatican, north of St. Peter’s Basilica. Nicholas III constructed the first of the many papal palaces that still stand today. 

Pope Symmachus built two episcopal homes in the Vatican, one on each side of the basilica, for brief stays. 

The Palatium Caroli, located north of St. Peter’s, was built by Charlemagne to house his guests on their visits to Rome. 

Leo III and Eugenius III built new structures, which were afterward repaired and defended by Innocent III. 

He built a second defensive wall within the old one built by Leo IV, increasing their defenses even more.

5.Visit Castel Gandolfo

The papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, also known as ‘Vatican number two’ by Pope John Paul II, has substantial historical value. 

This estate was ordered by Pope Urban VIII and built between 1624 and 1626 in the Italian region of Lazio, 24 km (15 miles) from Rome. 

The Holy See holds the Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo, the centerpiece of a large 55-acre complex. 

Along with the papal palace, the estate has other buildings, such as Villa Barberini and Villa Cybo, and beautiful Italian gardens.

The popes can enjoy a fantastic summer getaway at Castel Gandolfo, an essential point in Roman history.

6.Visit Redemptions, Mater Chapel

The Mater Chapel is a Roman Catholic chapel on the 2nd floor of the Apostolic Palace. 

This chapel, located next to the papal accommodation exclusively for the Pope’s use, is notable for its various mosaics.

The chapel’s beautiful mosaics, which reflect a rich creative past, add to its significance and beauty. 

The Mater Chapel is a sacred sanctuary for the Pope’s private devotion and meditation.

7.Visit Vatican Observatory

The Vatican Observatory, governed by Vatican City State, is a scientific research organization funded by the Holy See.

With a history dating back to the second half of the 16th century, the Vatican Observatory is one of the world’s oldest.

The Vatican Observatory’s roots date back to 1578, when Pope Gregory XIII commissioned the construction of the Tower of the Winds. 

Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians from the Roman College played a crucial role in the calendar reform in 1582. 

Since then, the Vatican Observatory has contributed to expanding astronomical knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Is Vatican City a country?

Yes, Vatican City is considered an independent city-state and is the world’s smallest country.

What is the age of consent in Vatican City?

Vatican City does not have a specific age of consent defined in its laws. 

The age of consent is established by Italian law, and Vatican City follows the Italian legal system.

Does Vatican City have an army?

Yes, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is a military force in Vatican City. It oversees the Pope’s and the Vatican City’s security.

Is the Vatican a walled city?

Yes, Vatican City is a walled city. 

It is enclosed by walls roughly 3.2 km (2 miles) long and built in the 9th century to safeguard the city against threats.

How old is Vatican City?

The Vatican City was established as an independent city-state in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy.
 
However, the history of Vatican City goes back much further, as it is home to many notable landmarks and attractions that have been around for centurie

When was Vatican City built?

Vatican City was built over a long period of time, starting with the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in the 4th century. 

The Lateran Treaty, signed on 11 February 1929, established Vatican City’s present boundaries and established it as an independent city-state.

What is so special about Vatican City?

Vatican City is notable for its role as the spiritual and administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as its historical and architectural treasures, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

Is a passport required to enter Vatican City?

You can enter Vatican City without a passport. Vatican City and Rome have the same border policies.

 What currencies should I bring with me to Vatican City?

When visiting Vatican City, you must have Euros with you.

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About the author

Om is a passionate wordsmith fueled by an insatiable thirst for adventure and exploration. He strives to immortalize wonders via his writing.