Vatican City | The Smallest Country In The World
Overlooking Rome's historic center is the Vatican, the world's smallest sovereign state. It boasts some of Italy's most famous artworks, many housed in the massive Vatican Museums (home of the Sistine Chapel), as well as a slew of fine eateries and souvenir stores and the famed St Peter's Basilica. Most pilgrims flock to the Vatican during significant times of the liturgical year, such as Christmas or Easter.
What is Vatican City?
The Vatican City State is an independent city-state located within Rome in Italy. The Vatican is governed by the Holy See, and is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Pope.
It is the smallest state in the world. It became independent from Italy with the Lateran Treaty. One of the most important sources of money for the Vatican's economy is tourism. The Vatican Museums and the St. Peter's Basilica are extremely popular tourist attractions. The Vatican Museums alone attracted 4.3 million people in 2007.
Vatican City | Knowledge Graph
- Official Name: State of the Vatican City, Italian Stato della Città del Vaticano (Italian)
- Type of Government: Papacy
- Population: 825
- Area: 0.44 sq km
- Language: Italian
- Currency: Euro (€)
Vatican City Map
Why visit Vatican City in Rome?
- Explore the architectural style of Vatican City. Largely constructed in the Renaissance style, you will also find examples of Baroque and Late Renaissance architecture.
- The Vatican museums span 1400 rooms and house relics and works of art dating back over 3000 years.
- Visit St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world.
- Explore the Vatican gardens that occupy half of the Vatican City. It includes fountains, a cactus garden, and historical buildings.
Where does Vatican City Get its Name From?
The Lateran Treaty, signed on February 11, 1929, established the modern city-state of Vatican City, which was named after Vatican Hill, the state's geopolitical setting. The name "Vatican" comes from an Etruscan settlement called Vatica or Vaticum, which was located in the broad area known to the Romans as Ager Vaticanus, or "Vatican territory".
About Vatican City
The Vatican City is located near the Tiber's right bank, on a small slope that was once part of the ancient Vatican Hill, on which some villas were built prior to Christ's birth. The state's territory, which covers 44 hectares, is partially besieged by the walls and continues up to a strip of travertine on St. Peter's Square that connects the external ends of the colonnade to the ground, marking the state border at the edge of the square, which is usually open to the public.
There are 825 people of the state, although only 246 (including 104 Swiss Guards members) dwell within the walls. Approximately half of the citizens live outside of the country, primarily for reasons of service. Vatican citizenship is not based on birth or blood but granted only to those who reside and work for the Vatican office. Cardinals who live in Vatican City or Rome, as well as diplomats of the Holy See, are also considered citizens. Citizenship is lost when the term of office comes to an end. Children cannot inherit it from their parents. The Vatican allows keeping dual citizenship.
Its entire population comprises of Christians. Catholicism is the official religion of the Vatican City. The Vatican City is the center of the Roman Catholic Church and the seat of the Pope. The pope is not only the Bishop of Rome, and head of the Roman Catholic Church, but also head of the Vatican City State. Catholics believe that the Pope is the successor to Saint Peter, who is believed to have been appointed by Jesus as the first head of his church.
Home to St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world and the Vatican Museums that holds some of the most famous art in the world, it is of no doubt that the Vatican City is a place of great cultural significance. The Vatican Library holds a collection of great historic, scientific and cultural value. In 1984, the Vatican was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the only country to have made it to the list. The Vatican is also considered to be the de facto custodian of the Latin language. By virtue of being a theocracy, religion is an integral part of the country.
Italian is the official language of Vatican City; it is the language used in official documents and for administrative and diplomatic affairs. Earlier, during the Roman Empire and the era of Papal States, Latin was the main language spoken in the area of the present Vatican City. While Italian is the lingua franca, the Holy See uses Latin as its official language. French is also sometimes used as a diplomatic language. In the Swiss Guard, Swiss German is used for giving commands, but the individual guards take their oath of loyalty in their own languages.
The Vatican has a temperate Mediterranean climate, just like Rome. It has mild, rainy winters from September to May and hot, dry summers in the months of May to August. It is these dry summers that used to drive the Popes to the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo during summers.
Best Time to Visit
September to October would be the best months to visit the Vatican. The temperature would be cool and pleasant.
Yes, Vatican City has its own flag. The papal or Vatican City flag is a two-part yellow (towards the shaft) and white cloth with the decussate keys loaded in the middle and the Triregno atop; the shaft is topped with a spear ornamented with a cockade in the same colors as the flag and trimmed with gold. In ancient times, the Papal State's flag was yellow and crimson, the Senate's and Roman people's customary colors.
The Vatican is a sovereign state with its own currency. By virtue of the monetary arrangement with the Italian government, Vatican coins are legal money in Italy and all other countries. Despite not being a member of the European Union or the Eurozone, Italy and the Vatican City struck a deal in 2000 that permitted the Vatican to use the euro as its official currency. The Vatican Euro, on the other hand, was designed with an image of the Pope on the back to differentiate itself as an autonomous city-state.
Pontification Hymn of Vatican City
The State of the Vatican City, as a sovereign authority under public law with global recognition, has its own official hymn, which has been the Pontifical March created by the famed French musician and passionate Catholic Charles Gounod since October 16, 1949, by order of Pius XII.
Previous National Anthem: Since 1857, the official Vatican anthem has been performed by Vittorino Hallmayer, director of the Band of the XXXVII Infantry Regiment "Conte Kinsky" of the Austrian army in the Papal States stationed in Rome. And it was this melody that echoed through the streets of the city shortly after the 1929 reconciliation.
Current Pontifical Hymn: The Pontifical Hymn of Gounod, which was officially authorized on the eve of the Holy Year of 1950, is considerably different from the one written in the style of the time by Hallmayer, with its bright and vigorous pace like a waltz. Pius XII opted to replace the official song of the time with the never-forgotten Pontifical March of Gounod, whose religious tone was more appropriate for the times.
Vatican City History
1 AD - 5 AD
Until the 1st century AD, the toponym Ager Vaticanus was used. After that, another toponym, Vaticanus, appeared, signifying a considerably smaller area: the Vatican hill, today's St. Peter's Square, and probably today's Via Della Conciliazione. In 326, the Constantinian basilica was built over what was thought to be Saint Peter's tomb. As a result of the basilica's activity, the surrounding area became more inhabited. During the papacy of Pope Symmachus in the 5th century, a palace was built onsite.
756 - 1870
Popes progressively gained a secular role as administrators of Rome's vicinity. They ruled the Papal States, a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula, from 756 until 1870. The popes did not live at the Vatican for most of their reign. For nearly a thousand years, they lived in the Lateran Palace on the opposite side of Rome. They lived in Avignon, France, from 1309 to 1377. They decided to live at the Vatican when they returned to Rome. In 1583, the Popes moved to the Quirinal Palace until the capture of Italy in 1870, when they returned to the Vatican.
Roman Question and the Lateran Treaty
1870 - 1929
After a perfunctory resistance by the papal soldiers, the Pope's holdings were placed in jeopardy in 1870 when Rome was captured by Piedmont-led forces who had united the rest of Italy. The "Roman Question" related to the Pope's status between 1861 and 1929. The Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy was signed on February 11, 1929, by Prime Minister and Head of Government Benito Mussolini and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri. The treaty established the separate state of Vatican City and confirmed the special status of Catholic Christianity in Italy, which took effect on June 7, 1929.
World War II
1939 - 1945
Under the leadership of Pope Pius XII, the Holy See, which administered Vatican City, followed a policy of neutrality during World War II. Despite the fact that German troops held Rome following the Armistice of Cassibile in September 1943 and the Allies from 1944, they both treated Vatican City as neutral territory. Unless expressly agreed upon, the US military exempted Catholic pilots and crews from air raids on Rome and other Church holdings. With the exception of Rome and, possibly, the Vatican, no Catholic US pilot or aircrew denied a mission within German-controlled Italy.
During the war, Pius XII refrained from appointing cardinals. There were numerous significant openings by the end of World War II, including Cardinal Secretary of State, Camerlengo, Chancellor, and Prefect for the Congregation for the Religious. Pius XII appointed 32 cardinals in early 1946, after announcing his intentions in his Christmas letter the year before. Italian environmental groups and politicians condemned the construction of a new guest house near St Peter's Basilica in 1995. The plans strained relations between the Vatican and the Italian government for a while.
What is the Holy See?
The Holy See is the name given to the Roman Catholic Church's government, which is led by the pope, who is also the bishop of Rome. As a result, the Holy See's jurisdiction extends to all Catholics worldwide. It has been based in Vatican City since 1929 when it was founded as an autonomous state to allow the pope to exercise its universal authority. Although the Holy See and Vatican City, the independent territory over which the Holy See has sovereign authority, are intimately linked, the two entities are separate and distinct.
Government of Vatican City
The Supreme Pontiff and, in his name, the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, which also perpetuates the basic norms, issue the clauses. Both are issued in a special addendum to the Holy See's Official Bulletin, Acta Apostolicae Sedis. The Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, who bears the title of 'President of the Governorate' in this position, has executive authority. The Governorate's organization is based on the President's Directorates and Central Offices. The Pontifical Commission and the President of the Governorate might enlist the help of the General Councilor and the State Councilors in creating legislation and other matters of key significance.
Economy of Vatican City
The Vatican City State economy is supported by the sale of stamps, coins, souvenirs, entrance fee to the Vatican Museums and publications sales. Other industries in Vatican include printing, the production of mosaics, and staff uniform manufacturing. There is a pharmacy in Vatican.
The Institute for Works of Religion or Vatican Bank, is a financial agency in the Vatican. It has multilingual ATMs and is the only one in the world to offer instructions in Latin.
Things To Do In Vatican City
St Peter’s Basilica
None of the city's magnificent cathedrals can compare to St Peter's Basilica, Italy's biggest, wealthiest, and most stunning basilica. It was established in Rome in 1626 after 120 years of construction on top of a 4th-century church. Its opulent interior has a plethora of magnificent works of art, including some of Italy's most renowned masterpieces.Know More
The Vatican Museums, founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century and expanded by subsequent pontiffs, house one of the world's largest art collections. Exhibits span from Egyptian mummies to Etruscan bronzes to antique busts, old masters, and current paintings, which are displayed across 54 galleries.Know More
Just west of the Tiber, the Vatican is perched atop the low-lying Vatican hill. The finely groomed Vatican Gardens encompass a large portion of the 109-acre site. If you have spent your time in the city overwhelmed by crowds or in noisy clubs, you will be relieved to learn that the Vatican gardens are usually very quiet.Know More
The papal palace at the Vatican is located north of St. Peter's Basilica. The earliest of the several papal palaces that exist today was erected by Nicholas III. In the Vatican, Pope Symmachus built two episcopal houses, one on either side of the basilica, to be used for short stays. The Palatium Caroli, located to the north of St. Peter's, was built by Charlemagne to accommodate his subjects during their travels to Rome. Other structures constructed by Leo III and Eugenius III were upgraded by Innocent III, who added to their protection by constructing a second defensive wall within Leo IV's.Know More
The papal summer house of Castel Gandolfo, affectionately nicknamed as 'Vatican number two' by Pope John Paul II, is both an important part of Roman history and a bottomless chasm. The Holy See owns the house, which was erected for Pope Urban VIII between 1624 and 1626 in Castel Gandolfo, a small hamlet in the Italian region of Lazio, about 24 kilometers from Rome. The Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo is part of a 55-acre complex that includes Italian gardens and other pontifical structures including Villa Barberini and Villa Cybo.Know More
Redemptions Mater Chapel
The Matilde Chapel, historically known as the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, is a Roman Catholic chapel on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. The chapel, which is located just outside the papal quarters and is designated for the Pope's exclusive use, is noteworthy for its varied mosaics that resemble early Byzantine religious artwork.
The Astronomical Observatory, often known as the Vatican Observatory, is a scientific research institute that is directly funded by the Holy See and is part of the Vatican City State's Governorate. The Vatican Observatory is one of the world's most ancient astronomical observatories. Its origins can be traced back to the second half of the 16th century when Pope Gregory XIII had the Tower of the Winds erected in the Vatican in 1578 and invited the Roman College's Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians to draft the calendar reform announced in 1582.
Vatican City Facts
- Vatican is a country within a city. It has a 2-mile border within the city of Rome.
- It is the smallest country in the world.
- The Vatican prints its own stamps and issues its own passports and license plates.
- Vatican Museums, housed in the Vatican City, is the fifth largest museum in the world.
- It took over 120 years to complete the St. Peter's Basilica.
- The Pope has absolute executive, legislative, and judicial powers within the city.
- It is one of the only two countries in the world that has no law for divorce, the other being the Philippines.
- Vatican City is the only country in the world that is also a UNESCO Heritage site.
Planning a Visit to the Vatican?
- Don’t forget to visit the Vatican Necropolis and Vatican Gardens as they are often the most exclusive experiences in Vatican City.
- Plan to spend at least two to three hours at the Vatican Museums if you want to cover the important artworks on display.
- Pick a guided tour if you want to know the intricate details about the architecture and artworks at the museums or at St. Peter’s Basilica.
- Purchase skip-the-line tickets if you want to be time-efficient.
- Reach the Vatican City early if you want to visit the attractions when the crowd is low.
- Inquire about the alternative opening times during holidays and weekends.
- Stick to the dress code when visiting Vatican City. You may be asked to leave if your attire is deemed to be inappropriate.
- Take the weather into consideration before planning your trip as most of the Vatican City museums are not air-conditioned.
All Your Questions About Vatican City Answered
A. The Roman Catholic Church is headquartered in Vatican City, a city-state bordered by Rome, Italy. It is the seat of the Pope as well as a treasure trove of legendary art and architecture.
A.No, you don’t need tickets to enter Vatican City. However, you will need tickets to enter the various attractions within Vatican City. You can buy tickets to Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica here.
A. You do not need a passport to enter Vatican City. Vatican City has no separate border policy from Rome.
A. You need to carry Euros when you visit Vatican City.
A. Yes, Vatican City has its own government known as the Holy See. The Vatican City State is an ecclesiastical state ruled by the Pope.
A. The Vatican City is 44 hectares or 0.44 square kilometers in size.
A. Yes, Vatican City has its own flag. It is two-part yellow and white with the decussate keys in the middle and the Triregno atop; the shaft is topped with a spear ornamented with a cockade in the same colors as the flag and trimmed with gold.
A. The top places to see at Vatican City include St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens, Vatican Palaces, Castel Gandolfo, and Redemptions Mater Chapel.