VATICAN CITY

Date of establishment: February 11, 1929

Brief history:

1st Century: The first Christian communities are established in Rome, with the Apostle Peter traditionally considered the first bishop of Rome. Christianity begins to gain influence despite initial persecution.

313: Emperor Constantine the Great issues the Edict of Milan, declaring religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire, granting greater freedom and rights to Christians.

4th Century: Papal authority in Rome is further established. Constantine orders the construction of significant church buildings, including the original St. Peter’s Basilica, built over the traditional burial site of St. Peter.

756: The Papal States are established after the Donation of Pepin, in which Frankish King Pepin the Short donates a large territory, including Rome, to the Pope. This marks the beginning of the temporal power of the papacy.

11th Century: The Papal States reach their greatest territorial extent, encompassing much of central Italy. The church’s influence grows, both spiritually and politically.

14th Century: The Papal Curia moves to Avignon, France, during the Avignon Papacy (1309-1377), a period marked by the influence of the French crown over the papacy and significant internal church conflicts.

1377: Pope Gregory XI moves the Papal Curia back to Rome, ending the Avignon Papacy. This move is followed by the Western Schism, where multiple claimants to the papacy arise.

1870: The conflict between papal authority and the unification of Italy, led by King Victor Emmanuel II, culminates in the capture of Rome. Most of the Papal States are annexed by the Kingdom of Italy, and the Pope’s temporal power is confined to the Vatican area. The Pope declares himself a “prisoner in the Vatican.”

February 11, 1929: The Lateran Treaties are signed between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, establishing Vatican City as an independent sovereign state with the Pope as its supreme ruler.

June 7, 1929: The Lateran Treaty is ratified, officially recognizing the independence of Vatican City. The treaty also includes financial compensation to the Holy See for the loss of the Papal States and recognizes Catholicism as the state religion of Italy

 

International abbreviation: SVC

 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

The euro became the official currency of Vatican City on January 1, 1999, introduced as an electronic currency and for non-cash transactions. From January 1, 2002, euro coins and banknotes were introduced as legal tender, replacing the Italian lira.

 

Internet domain: .va

 

Dialing code: +379

 

Time zone: +1 GMT

 

Geography:

A city-state located in the center of Rome, Italy, and the smallest independent state in the world.

Due to its small size, Vatican City is entirely surrounded by the urban development of Rome.

 

Highest point: Vatican Hill, 75 meters (246 feet) above sea level

One of the original seven hills on which ancient Rome was founded, Vatican Hill is located on the right bank of the Tiber, on the northwest edge of ancient Rome. The first basilica was built on this hill over the tomb of Saint Peter, the founder of the Catholic Church, and this area became the core of modern Vatican City.

 

Climate: Subtropical

Vatican City has a Mediterranean climate, typical of the area around Rome. This means mild and damp winters and hot and dry summers prevail.

 

Fauna and flora: None

 

Agriculture: None

 

Resource extraction: None

 

Industry: None

 

Services and other economic sectors: tourism and banking

 

Natural and historical attractions:

 

The main tourist attraction is St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the largest and most magnificent cathedrals in the world. Visitors can admire its stunning Renaissance and Baroque architecture, impressive sculptures, intricate altars, and Michelangelo’s iconic dome. The basilica also houses important works of art, including Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Another significant site is the Sistine Chapel, renowned for its breathtaking frescoes by Michelangelo, including the famous “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling and “The Last Judgment” on the altar wall. The chapel also features works by other Renaissance artists like Botticelli, Perugino, and Ghirlandaio.

The Vatican Museums are another major draw, comprising an extensive collection of artworks and historical artifacts from various periods and cultures. Highlights include the Gallery of Maps, the Raphael Rooms (with frescoes by Raphael), the Egyptian Museum, and the Gregorian Etruscan Museum. The museums also house the Laocoön and His Sons sculpture and the Apollo Belvedere.

Vatican City hosts many religious ceremonies and pilgrimages, attracting visitors from around the globe. Papal audiences, typically held weekly when the Pope is in Rome, allow visitors to see and hear the Pope. Major events include the “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) papal blessing on Easter and Christmas, which draws large crowds to St. Peter’s Square.

St. Peter’s Square itself, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is an architectural marvel and a significant historical site, hosting many religious events and gatherings. The square features the impressive colonnade, the Egyptian obelisk at its center, and the two fountains by Maderno and Bernini.

Additionally, the Vatican Gardens, which occupy about half of Vatican City’s territory, offer a serene and beautifully landscaped area that includes Renaissance sculptures, fountains, and various religious shrines. While access to the gardens is restricted, guided tours are available.

 

 

Form of government: Ecclesiastical Absolute Monarchy and Elective Theocracy

Vatican City is a unique ecclesiastical and sovereign state governed as an absolute elective monarchy. The Pope, who is the Bishop of Rome and the leader of the global Catholic Church, serves as the supreme ruler of Vatican City. His powers are extensive, encompassing executive, legislative, and judicial authority.

The governance of Vatican City is supported by various institutions. The most significant of these is the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, which assists in legislative functions and is appointed by the Pope. The President of the Pontifical Commission also serves as the Governor of Vatican City, managing day-to-day administration.

Judicial authority within Vatican City is vested in a legal system that includes the Vatican’s own courts, which handle civil and criminal matters. The Vatican also has its own police force, the Corps of Gendarmerie, responsible for maintaining public order.

 

Capital city: Vatican City

The Vatican City’s capital is Vatican City itself, a part of the Italian city of Rome. Vatican City is the seat of the Holy See and the Pope, serving as the highest authority of the Catholic Church.

 

Area: 0.49 km² (0.19 square miles)

 

Population: 921 (2022)

Vatican City does not have a permanent population in the sense of a regular residential settlement, as its inhabitants are primarily clergy and employees of the Holy See.

The primary resident of Vatican City is, of course, the Pope, who is not only the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church but also the head of state. Vatican City is home to many priests, bishops, cardinals, and other clergy serving in various functions and offices of the Holy See.

In addition to the religious personnel, Vatican City also employs various individuals in administrative, diplomatic, security, and tourism roles.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 2

 

  1. Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights, and San Paolo Fuori le Mura (1980) – This includes the historic core of Rome and extraterritorial properties of the Holy See, such as major basilicas and buildings within Rome that are significant for their historical, architectural, and artistic value.
  2. Vatican City (1984) – This site encompasses the entirety of Vatican City, including its unique collection of artistic and architectural works such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums. It represents one of the holiest places in Christianity and a center of significant cultural heritage.

 

National parks: None