Vatican City

Facts about Vatican City

We found 21 facts about Vatican City

Stato della Città del Vaticano

Vatican City is the smallest sovereign state in the world, located in the heart of Rome, the capital of Italy. Its history dates back more than two thousand years, with origins linked to Christianity and Saint Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, who, according to tradition, was imprisoned and crucified in Rome. The site of his martyrdom became a place of worship and the seat of the Bishop of Rome - the Pope.

Over the centuries, the Vatican has become a religious center, the seat of the head of the Catholic Church, which is considered the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics around the world. It is home to many important religious ceremonies and diplomatic meetings, giving it political clout in the international arena. In addition to being a religious center, the Vatican has also become an artistic and intellectual center. Successive popes have contributed to the expansion of the building complex, including the famous St. Peter’s Basilica, which is one of the most important monuments of religious architecture in the world.

The historical, artistic, and religious significance of the site for all mankind was recognized by placing the Vatican on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Vatican City
The Vatican is the smallest university-recognized country in the world both in terms of area and population.

It has an area of just 0.44 square kilometers (44 hectares)-Vatican City is so small it would fit inside New York’s Central Park, The country’s surface is mainly covered by buildings and gardens. The Vatican’s population is only about 800-made up of church dignitaries, priests, nuns, and Swiss Guards with their families.

In addition to the permanent residents, about 3000 people living outside the Vatican come to work there every day. These include employees of the post office, radio, stores, newspapers, medical service, or the glue station.

About 6 million people visit the Vatican every year-the highest number per capita in the world.

Vatican City is the only country in the world where Latin is the official language.

In addition to Latin, Italian is the second official language there. The Pope uses Latin in important ceremonies, and official documents are still written in this language.

The Vatican is located on Vatican Hill, near the right bank of the Tiban River.

Vatican Hill is not among the seven hills of Rome (the seven hills on the eastern left side of the Tiber on which Rome was built). It is a tufa hill 75 meters above sea level and is the highest hill in Vatican City and the lowest peak belonging to the Crown of Europe. Most of the hill’s area has been occupied by the Vatican City State since 1929.

Vatican City is the seat of the highest authority of the Catholic Church.

It is an absolute electoral monarchy with the Pope as its monarch. The Pope is also the Bishop of Rome, holding his office in the Holy See (Sancta Sedes), which is located in Vatican City. The Holy See exercises exclusive sovereignty and sovereign power and jurisdiction over the Vatican.

Initially, the seat of the popes was the Lateran Palace given to the bishops of Rome in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine the Great.

Located about five kilometers from the Lateran, the Vatican was then only a place of pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter. In ancient times, the Vatican Hill was home to Emperor Nero’s circus, where many Christians and Jews were probably martyred and executed. North of the circus was a small cemetery where the Apostle Peter is said to have been buried. Later a monument was erected at the site, and in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine had a church built-the first basilica of St. Peter. Monasteries, hostels, and shelters for pilgrims were also built there.

At the end of the 9th century, the first defensive walls were built around St. Peter’s Basilica and Hadrian’s Mausoleum (St. Angelus Castle).

The transfer of the papal seat from the Lateran to the Vatican took place on 17th January 1377.

This was done by Pope Gregory XI upon his return from Avignon. Vatican Hill became the seat of the pope, the Roman Curia, and the center of the entire Roman Catholic Church. Successive popes carried out their construction projects there: churches, chapels, administrative buildings, fortifications, accommodations, and more.

In 1506 the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica began, and in 1589 Pope Sixtus V commissioned the construction of the Apostolic Palace, which is still the residence of the Pope and important administrative bodies. This situation persisted until 1870 when King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy incorporated the existing Church State on Vatican Hill into the Kingdom of Italy. The Pope did not come to terms with this decision and declared himself a prisoner of the Vatican. It was not until 1929 that Benito Mussolini’s fascist government and the Holy See signed the so-called Lateral Treaties, which guaranteed the existence of the Vatican State within the Apostolic Palace and Vatican Gardens.

St. Peter’s Basilica was built between 1506 and 1626.

It was built on the site of an older early Christian basilica, founded by Emperor Constantine the Great. According to tradition, it stands on the burial site of St. Peter, whom Catholics recognize as the first pope. St. Peter’s tomb is located under the main altar, known as the Altar of Confession.

The Vatican Basilica is the second largest church in the world, with an area of 23.000 square meters. Larger than it is only the Basilica of Our Lady Queen Peace in Yamoussoukro, the administrative capital of Ivory Coast. This basilica is the largest church in the world, the tallest church in Africa, and the tallest Catholic church in the world - its total area is 30.000 square meters.

St. Peter’s Square was designed in 1656 by Bernini, during the pontificate of Pope Alexander VII.

It was designed so that as many people as possible could see the Pope giving his blessing, either from the center of the church façade or from a window in the Vatican Palace. It is in the shape of a perpendicular oval, which on the west side, with a trapezoid-shed section, is open to St. Peter’s Basilica, and on the east side faces Via della Conciliazione.

The piazza is surrounded by Bernini’s portico - a four-row colonnade topped by an attic, on which statues of 140 saints are placed (among them is a statue of St. Jacek Odrowąż, a Dominican). In the middle of the square is an ancient Egyptian obelisk from the 13th century BC (one of 13 in Rome), which has been erected in its present location since 1586. It was originally set up in Nero’s circus in honor of Julius Caesar (for this reason, the obelisk was commonly called “Julia”). Tradition says that the obelisk witnessed the martyrdom of St. Peter.

There are two symmetrically located fountains in the square, and on the left side, between the basilica and the colonnade, is the Pantry Gate (one of the three gates by which one can enter the Vatican) guarded by the Swiss Guard.

According to the Lateran Treaty, the area of St. Peter’s Square is under the authority of the Italian police for crowd control, even though it is part of the Vatican City State.

The official residence of the Pope in the Vatican is the Apostolic Palace, also known as the Palace of Sixtus V.

It serves not only residential but also administrative functions. The building contains papal apartments, various Vatican government offices, private and public chapels, a museum, a library, and the Borgia Apartments.

The Borgia Apartments consist of six rooms adapted for personal use by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). In the late 15th century, he commissioned Italian painter Bernardino di Betto (Pinturicchio) and his studio to decorate the apartments with frescoes. A recent restoration of the frescoes revealed a scene believed to be the earliest known European depiction of Native Americans, painted just two years after Christopher Columbus returned from the New World.

The largest part of the Vatican territory is occupied by the Vatican Gardens-about 23 hectares.

They are a garden and park complex surrounding the Vatican’s public buildings and residential buildings. They occupy the slope of Vatican Hill and are surrounded on three sides by fortified walls with bastions. On the east side, they are adjacent to the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica and the long wing of the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican Gardens were founded by Pope Nicholas III in 1279.

The Vatican is home to one of the oldest and most famous libraries-the Vatican Library.

It was founded in 1448 by Pope Nicholas V as the public library of the city of Rome. The initial collection contained 350 Greek, Latin, and Hebrew volumes. The collection has grown rapidly throughout history and today the library contains 75.000 manuscripts and more than 1.1 million printed books, including 8500 incunabula. In addition, 150.000 items are stored in the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives.

The Vatican Library is a scholarly library for history, law, philosophy, science, and theology. Its collections can be used by anyone who confirms their qualifications and justifies the purpose of requesting access to the collection. The Vatican Library is headed by the Librarian of the Holy Roman Church. His office is traditionally combined with that of the Archivist of the Holy Roman Church.

Vatican citizenship is held by very few people.

Theoretically, one cannot be born in the Vatican, as there is no hospital with a delivery room there. Vatican citizenship is not inherited from parents at birth, nor is it acquired by being born on the territory of this city-state. One becomes a citizen when performing certain functions in the Holy See and is always granted temporarily. It never replaces another citizenship.

The Vatican holds the record for wine consumption per capita.

According to the California Wine Institute, residents of the Vatican City State drink as much as 74 liters of wine per year. This rate is much higher than in countries where large amounts of wine are traditionally produced and drunk, such as Italy - 37.5 liters per capita, France and Spain. The Vatican also surpassed the United States, Germany, China, and the United Kingdom.

The biggest influence on the record consumption of this liquor is its sale in the Vatican supermarket, where there is an unusually wide range of wines and prices are more attractive than in Italy (much lower excise taxes). Although only people with special passes, mainly Vatican employees, have access to this market, its turnover is huge.

There are a number of extraterritorial properties of the Holy See that are not part of Vatican territory.

These include areas immediately adjacent to state territory, such as the Palazzo San Pio X, Campo Santo Teutonico, and most of the Vatican Audience Hall, among others. A state border runs through the middle of this hall, with the papal throne on the Vatican side and the auditorium already outside the border. Other extraterritorial areas include various palaces in Rome’s Old Town, the papal summer residence Castel Gandolfo, and the Vatican Radio broadcast center at Santa Maria di Galeria.

The Vatican has its foot military formation that acts as a bodyguard for the Pope - the Swiss Guard.

The Swiss Guard is considered the smallest and oldest existing army in the world, having been formally in place since 1506. Currently, the papal army has 135 soldiers: commissioned officers (lieutenants, captains, majors, chaplain, commander, and vice-commander), non-commissioned officers (corporals and vice-corporals, sergeants and sergeant major), troop (halberdiers). The commander of the Swiss Guard has the rank of colonel, is a so-called “papal householder” and holds the title of nobleman of His Holiness.

Members of the Swiss Guard must be Swiss citizens and must be Catholic. They usually come from the two Swiss Catholic cantons of Lucerne and Valais. At the time of entering service, candidates must be bachelors between the ages of 19 and 30, have an impeccable reputation, and be over 174 centimeters tall. Basic service in the Guard lasts two years, with the possibility of extension. Guardsmen’s uniforms have the colors of the noble Medici family.

Pope John Paul II once called the Vatican the most militarized country in the world, as the number of guardsmen stationed there exceeds 10 percent of the Vatican state’s population.

One of the most visited museums in the world is the Vatican Museum.

They were created from the collections of artwork amassed by successive popes, beginning in the 16th century, and are associated with the figures of Popes Sixtus IV and Julius II. The first significant exhibit with which the museum’s collection began was the ancient sculpture Laocoon Group, discovered in 1506 in a vineyard near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The sculpture was purchased by Pope Julius II from the owner of the vineyard, on the recommendation of Michelangelo and Giuliano da Sangallo. The Pope made this sculpture, as well as his private collection of sculptures, available for public exhibition at the Vatican. Also purchased at the time was one of the most valuable works in the museum’s collection, a sculpture of Apollo, which came to be known as the Apollo of Belvedere, as well as the Torso of Belvedere, a 1st century BC Greek sculpture of Apollonios of Athens, which became a source of inspiration for Michelangelo.

The official opening of the Vatican Museums as the Christian Museum took place under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XIV in 1757.

The Vatican is the only country in the world to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety.

This happened in 1984. Above that, the Vatican is registered with UNESCO as a center of monuments in the “International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection” per the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict.

Yellow mailboxes have become an icon in the landscape of the papal city-state.

The Vatican Post Office has operated its postal services and issued its stamps since 1929. Vatican Post’s services are described as among the best in the world. More letters are sent from the Vatican than from any other place in the world (2.5 million letters, 7 million postcards, and about 20.000 parcels per year).

The Vatican has its astronomical observatory.

It has a rich scientific tradition that began in 1576, when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the construction of a 73-meter tower designed for, among other things, astronomical observations. The Tower of the Winds, which still stands today, is also called the Gregorian Tower or the Gregorian Observatory. Based on observations of the meridian located there, the Pope decided to reform the calendar (Gregorian calendar). In 1933, the seat of the Vatican Observatory became Castel Gandolfo.

The most important scientific institution in the Vatican is the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Founded in 1603, it has 80 members appointed by the Pope from among distinguished scholars from around the world. The academy does not conduct its research; it is the pope’s consultative body on matters of science.

Although the Vatican is not a member of the European Union, the currency in force there is the Euro.

All the observers of Vatican coins bear the inscription Città del Vaticano and the twelve stars of Europe. The first coins depicted John Paul II. The Vatican’s earlier currency was the Vatican lira.

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