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Vatican City

The State of the City of the Vatican or the Vatican City (Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae, Italian Stato della Cittā del Vaticano) is the smallest independent country in the world (both in area and in population), a landlocked enclave surrounded by the city of Rome in Italy. The Vatican is the home of the Pope, and forms the territory of the Holy See, the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican City includes the Vatican Hill (mons vaticanus), whose name predates Christianity, and the Vatican Fields north of the hill, upon which St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums are built.

Status Civitatis Vaticanae
Stato della Cittā del Vaticano
Flag of the Vatican City Vatican City: Coat of Arms
(In Detail)

National motto: none

Location of the Vatican City
Official language Latin¹
Capital Vatican City
Largest City Vatican City
Pope John Paul II
Secretary of State Angelo Cardinal Sodano
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 193rd
.44 kmē
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 193rd
 - Date
Lateran treaties
11 February 1929
May 23, 1949
October 3, 1990
Currency Euro (€) (²)
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Inno e Marcia Pontificale
Internet TLD .va
Calling Code +379
(¹) Italian is commonly used. Official language of the Swiss Guard is German

(²) Prior to 1999: Italian lira.



Main article: History of the Vatican City

It is supposed that this originally uninhabited part of Rome (the ager vaticanus) had always been considered sacred, even before the arrival of Christianity. In 326 the first church was built on the supposed site of the tomb of Saint Peter, and from then on the area started to become more populated.

Popes in their secular role gradually extended their control over neighbouring regions and through the Papal States ruled a large portion of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when most of the territory of the Papal States was seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy.

In 1870, the Pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed. Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved on February 11, 1929 by three Lateran treaties, which established the independent state of the Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a new concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.


Main article: Politics of the Vatican City

The Vatican is technically a rare case of a non-hereditary elective monarchy; the monarch, the Pope, being elected for life by those Cardinals under the age of 80 during a Conclave (held in the Sistine Chapel).

The term "Holy See" refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. As the "central government" of the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See has a legal personality that allows it to enter into treaties as the juridical equal of a state. The Pope delegates the internal administration of the Vatican City to the Pontifical Commission for the State of the Vatican City. The legal system is based on canon, or ecclesiastical, law; if canon law is not applicable the laws of the city of Rome apply.

As an independent state, the Vatican has the right to send and receive diplomatic representatives, including foreign embassies, which are located in the Italian part of Rome due to the very limited territory of the state. This means that Italy hosts its own Embassy of Italy. The Holy See is a permanent observer in the United Nations, and in July, 2004, gained all the rights of full membership except voting. According to Archbishop Celestino Migliore , Holy See Permanent Observer, "We have no vote because this is our choice." He added that the Vatican considers that its current status "is a fundamental step that does not close any path for the future. The Holy See has the requirements defined by the UN statute to be a member state and, if in the future it wished to be so, this resolution would not impede it from requesting it."


Main article: Geography of the Vatican City


The Vatican City is situated on the Vatican Hill in the northwestern part of Rome, several hundred metres west of the Tiber river. Its borders (3.2km in total, all with Italy) closely follow the city wall constructed to protect the Pope from outside attack. The situation is more complex at the famous St. Peter's Square in front of the St. Peter's Basilica, where the correct border is the middle of the round area surrounded by Bernini's columns. It is the smallest sovereign state in the world at 0.44 km² (108.7 acres). According to the Lateran Treaties certain properties of the Holy See, although not being part of the territory of the City State, enjoy the privilege of extraterritoriality (e.g. Major Basilicas, Curial and diocesan offices, Castel Gandolfo). The Pope is the Head of State, though he governs through the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. The Gubernator manages the day to day affairs of the State.

Its climate is naturally much the same as Rome's; a temperate, Mediterranean clime with mild, rainy winters from September to mid-May and hot, dry summers from May to September.


Main article: Economy of the Vatican City

This unique, noncommercial economy is supported financially by contributions (known as Peter's Pence) from Roman Catholics throughout the world, the sale of postage stamps, coins and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to, or somewhat better than, those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome.


Main article: Demographics of the Vatican City

Almost all of Vatican City's citizens live inside the Vatican's walls. The Vatican citizenry consists mostly of clergy, including high dignitaries, priests, nuns, as well as the famous Swiss Guard, a volunteer military force. There are also about 3,000 lay workers who comprise the majority of the Vatican work force, but who reside outside the Vatican.

The official language is Latin, the otherwise extinct language that originated in Rome and has remained in use in the Roman Catholic Church. Italian and, to a lesser extent, other languages are generally used for most conversations, publications, and broadcasts.


Main article: Culture of the Vatican City

The Vatican City is itself of great cultural significance. Buildings such as St. Peter's Basilica or the Sistine Chapel are home to some of the most beautiful art in the world, which includes works by artists such as Botticelli, Bernini and Michelangelo. The Vatican Library and the collections of the Vatican Museums are of the highest historical, scientific and cultural importance.

Transportation and Communications

The Vatican City has no airports. There is one heliport and a 862 m standard gauge (1.435 m) railway that connects to Italy's network at Rome's Saint Peter's station.

A newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, publishes daily in Italian, weekly in English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and monthly in Polish.

Miscellaneous topics


  • The Holy See - Official website of the Holy See

External links

  • Some photos - Text is in Italian

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Last updated: 02-04-2005 17:52:02
Last updated: 02-22-2005 02:32:40