The Vatican City – Citta del Vaticano

The Vatican City

The Vatican City (Citta del Vaticano), is the world’s smallest state and is situated inside the City of Rome, Italy. Also known as the Vatican City State, it is the centre of the Roman Catholic Church and the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion Catholics. St.Peter’s basilica is built over the tomb of St.Peter. This small Vatican City State is filled with artwork and holds more history than most cities throughout the entire world. The Vatican City also includes 13 buildings inside Rome and Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, which all are covered by extraterritorial rights.  The Vatican houses a radio station which broadcasts all over the world in 29 languages, a television station, a daily newspaper, the Vatican Post Office with Vatican stamps, post box and gift shop, shops, offices and publishing houses, there are also 11 Vatican museums and the Vatican gardens.. The Vatican City State has an area of approximately 110 acres and a population of round about 1,000.  The Vatican City’s position as a sovereign state within a state was established on February 11th, 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, agreements made between the, then Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, and ratified by the Italian parliament on June 7th 1929. It was marked by the building of a new road, the Via della Conciliazione, which runs between St.Peter’s Basilica to the Castel Sant’Angelo.  At this time Italy was under a Fascist government and since this time all Italian democratic governments have upheld the treaty. In 1947 the Lateran Pacts were incorporated into the democratic Constitution of Italy. The Lateran Palace was once a residence of Popes and it was here that the Lateran Treaty was signed and from where the treaty took it’s name.  The Vatican City is ruled over by the Bishop of Rome, the Pope and the the highest state   officials are all Catholic clergymen who come from various parts of the world.  It is here that the Pope has his residence which is referred to as the Apostolic Palace. The name Vatican comes from the Latin Mons Vaticanus which translates as Vatican Mount, next to which were  the Vatican fields. It was here that St.Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Apostolic Palace and several museums were built.


The Vatican sits  on the low Vatican Hill with a boundary of only 3.2 km around, much of the area of the Vatican City is taken by the Vatican Gardens, these cover 57 acres and are secured within stone walls to the North, South and West. The Vatican Gardens, which were established when Pope Nicholas III moved his residence back to the Apostolic Palace from the Lateran Palace in 1279. The gardens offer a place of peace and quiet where the Pope can meditate and pray. Nicholas also planted an orchard, a lawn and a garden, these was the first Vatican Garden. The gardens are furnished with wonderful Renaissance and Baroque fountains and Statues, a fish pool, a system of small and large gardens and even an enclosure for rabbits.


In line with the policies of the Lateran Treaty, the Vatican City followed a policy of neutrality during World War II, Pope Pius XII being head of the church at that time. Even though Rome was occupied by Germany from 1943 and the Allies from 1944 the Vatican City was not occupied.

Swiss Guards – Swiss mercenaries have long been recruited throughout Europe, since around the 1400’s. Switzerland was a poor country and the young men had to search out their fortunes elsewhere. The Pontifical Swiss Guard is the smallest and longest standing army in the world and was  founded by pope Julius II on 22nd Januray 1506 as the personal bodyguards to the Pope, they have continued in this role ever since. Recruits today have to fulfil certain requirements, they must be Catholics, unmarried and aged between 19 – 30, they must have also completed their basic training with the Swiss army and hold a good conduct certificate, and have a professional degree or high school diploma. Their colourful uniforms are of a Renaissance style and are tailor-made for each guard. The official dress uniform is Red, blue,orange and yellow and weighs around 8lbs, and is of a complicated pattern which is made up of  154 separate pieces. It is made up of baggy trousers, fitted jerkin with wide sleeves, red underclothing,white gloves and ruffle, helmet with feathers and a sword. The everyday uniform is simpler and is a solid blue, with a  white collar and black beret. The guard comprises of four officers, twenty-three NCOs, seventy halberdiers and two drummers all  whose job it is to watch over and guard the Pope. After the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II by Mehmet Ali Ağca, the role of the Swiss Guard has increased and they have received further training in unarmed combat and small arms.

Extraterritorial Properties belonging to the Holy See 

  • Basilica of St.John Lateran – Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano – Cathedral of rome
  • Basilica of St.Mary Major  – Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Basilica of St.Paul outside the Walls – Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura – also the Benedictine monastery, the Pontifical Oratory of San Paolo and the Pontifical Beda College.
  • Lateran Palace, University and adjoining buildings,
  • Palace of St Callixtus (Palazzo San Callisto) – home of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
  • Certain Buildings on the Gianicolo Hill, namely the Pontifical Urbaniana University, the Pontifical North American College, and the Bambino Gesù Hospital.
  • Palazzo della Cancelleria between the Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Campo de’ Fiori.
  • Palazzo di Propaganda Fide –  (the Palace of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) in the Piazza di Spagna.
  • Palace of the Holy Office – home of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Piazza del Sant’Uffizio and adjacent to the Basilica of St. Peter.
  • Palace of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (formerly Palace of the Convertendi in Piazza Scossaca valli), in Via della Conciliazione (rione of Borgo)
  • Palace of the Vicariato (also called Palazzo Mattei Mascerotti) in Via della Pigna off the Corso Vittorio Emanuele near the Piazza del Gesù
  • Pontifical Minor Roman Seminary
  • Campo Santo Teutonico
  • The larger part of Paul VI Audience Hall (the rostrum with the papal throne, however, is part of Vatican territory)
  • Area of Santa Maria di Galeria, where the antennae of Vatican Radio are located. The area was ceded by Italy to the Holy See in an agreement in 1951.
Musei Vaticani – Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums were first founded in the early 16th century by Pope Julius II, and the popes were among the first sovereigns who opened their their palaces to the public to show their art collections to the public. Since then the collections have been vastly increased over the centuries and include some of the most renowned classical sculptures and masterpieces of the Renaissance art in the world. The Vatican Museums are amongst the greatest museums in the world. The most famous is the Sistine Chapel with its ceiling painted by Michelangelo and the Stanze della Segnatura decorated by Raphael. The first exhibit to be purchased was that of a marble sculpture, purchased over 500 years ago, it was the sculpture of Laocoon and is sons, which was discovered in a vineyard near the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in 1506. Pope Julius II immediately bought it from the vineyard owner and within one month put the sculpture on display to the public. In 1837 Gregory XVI founded the Etruscan Museum which displays archaeological finds discovered in southern Etruria, he later established the Egyptian Museum which houses ancient Egyptian artefacts. The Lateran Profane Museum was expanded in 1854 under Pius IX  with the addition of the Pio Christian Museum  which houses ancient sculptures and inscriptions with Christian content.
Among the Vatican Museums are also the Gallery of Tapestries, which are a collection of 15th and 17th century tapestries, Gallery of Busts, Sala Rotunda,  The Gallery of Maps, Sala delle Muse, Gallery of the Statues,   The Sobieski Room and the Room of the Immaculate Conception,  The Raphael Stanze and Loggia, The Chapel of Nicholas V,  The Sistine Chapel, The Borgia Apartment, The Vatican Pinacoteca and The Missionary-Ethnological Museum. The Collection of Modern and Contemporary Religious Art was added in in 1973 by Pope Paul VI in the Borgia Apartment. A collection of Papal portraits is housed in the Vatican Historical Museum along with the Carriage and Automobile Museum.
In 2000 the Vatican Museums opened a new spacious entrance area, here there are security checks, cloak-room, visitor information, guided tours, currency exchange, museum shop, nursery and first aid station.

Popes since 1929

 Pope Pius XI 6 February 1922
– 10 February 1939
(17 years, 4 days)
Achille Ambrogio Damiano Ratti, from  Desio, Lombardy-Venetia, Austrian Empire  Signed the Lateran Treaty in 1929 with the Italy thus establishing the Vatican as a Sovereign State.
Pope Pius XII 2 March 1939
– 9 October 1958
(19 years, 221 days)
Eugenio Marìa Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli from Rome, Italy.
Pope John XXIII 28 October 1958
– 3 June 1963
(4 years, 218 days)
Àngelo Giuseppe Roncalli from Sotto il Monte,Bergamo Opened the Second Vatican Council
Pope Paul VI 21 June 1963
– 6 August 1978
(15 years, 46 days)
Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Marìa Montini from Concesio, Brescia, Italy Pope Paul VI was the first pope to travel to The United States and the last pope to be crowned with the papal tiara. He also concluded the Second Vatican Council.
Pope John Paul I 26 August 1978
– 28 September 1978
(0 years, 33 days)
Albino Luciani from Forno di Canale, Veneto, Italy Shortest reign as Pope. First pope to use two names of his two predecessors.
Pope John Paul II 16 October 1978
– 2 April 2005
(26 years, 168 days)
Karol Józef Wojtyła from Wadowice, Poland First Polish pope and first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Canonized more saints than all predecessors. Travelled extensively. Second longest known reign after Pius IX,1846–1878. Recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI 19 April 2005
– 28 February 2013 (retirement announced)
(7 years, 315 days)
Joseph Alois Ratzinger from Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany First German pope since Germanic Pope Adrian VI. Oldest to become pope since Pope Clement XII in 1730.  Announced 11 February 2013 that he will resign 28 February 2013 at 8pm.
Pope Francis I 13 March 2013 – Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Flores, Buenos Aires, Argentina He is the first pope to be a Jesuit, to come from the Americas, and to come from the Southern Hemisphere.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on the 16th April 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Germany. He is the 265th Pope by virtue of his office as Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City and the Head of the Roman Catholic Church. He was elected to office on the 19th April 2005.  On the 11th February 2013 he announced his decision to resign on the 28th February 2013 at 8pm. He is the first pope to resign since Pope Celestine V in 1294.  In his speech to announce his resignation, Pope Benedict stated that it was due to “lack of strength of mind and body” which was due to his advanced age. After his resignation Benedict still retains the title of ‘His Holiness’ and is known as ‘Pope Emeritus’. He will continue to dress in the papal white and will live in the newly renovated ‘Mater Ecclasiae’ monastery for his retirement. He was succeeded by Pope Francis I on the 13th March 2013.

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Pope Francis I

Pope Francis I was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on the 17th December 1936 in Flores, Buenos Aires City Argentina. He is the 266th Pope, and was elected to office on the 13th March 2013. He is the first pope to be a Jesuit, to come from the Americas, and to come from the Southern Hemisphere. Pope Francis took his name in honour of St Francis of Assisi. Both his parents are of Italian origins.




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