The Vatican City State of the Pope

Vatican City

The Vatican City State, lies on the right bank of the Tiber River and includes the sovereign state papal region within Rome, formed to replace the papal state abolished in 1870 upon the unification of Italy.

The Vatican City includes St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the Vatican Gardens, mostly walled. The smallest state in the world (area – 0.44 km², population – about 1000 people) also includes patriarchal basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo Fuori le Mura and San Giovanni in Laterano, administrative buildings and the papal summer residence in the castle of Castel Gandolfo.

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Video: Vatican City

Status Quo.

The Vatican is home to about 1,000 residents, half of whom are citizens of the state, with only twenty-five women among them. In addition, there are another 3,000 people serving in the Vatican. Thus the Vatican is the smallest state in the world, but it is also the center of the government of the Catholic Church, to which some one billion people on every continent identify themselves. In this capacity the Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with some 170 countries out of 200.

The state attributes of the Vatican are the white and yellow flag, the coat of arms with the image of Peter’s keys and the tiara (crown) of the Pope, as well as the military force – the Swiss Guards. A hundred Guardsmen dressed in the ceremonial uniform of the 16th century guard the Holy See – the Pope and his palace. Besides the Vatican has its own telephone service, post office and banking system including the Commercial Bank L’Instituto per le Opere di Religione. The Vatican has its own train station, a special garbage disposal service, and a printing house. The Vatican produces nothing; all services, including power supply, are imported. But the Vatican owns its own radio station (Radio Vaticano) and two official publications: Acta Apostolicae Sedis and the daily Osservatore Romano (circulation 70,000 copies) distributed worldwide. The city-state, which pays no taxes, exists from donations, sales of coins and stamps, revenues from trade and manufacturing monopolies, and all kinds of industrial participation. Tourism is another significant source of income, as St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museums with their famous works of art attract tourists from all over the world.

The emergence of the Vatican is linked to the most famous forgery in European history: the so-called Constantine gift, which secured the pope’s supreme authority over Rome and the Western Roman Empire, but turned out to be a simple paper fabricated in the papal curia.

However, this fake deed of gift, composed by papal scholars in 750-760, worked perfectly: even in 1850 the ecclesiastical state of the Holy See included large parts of Central Italy, together with Lazio, Umbria, the Marche and Romagna. Today, the entire Vatican City State, with its medieval walls, can easily be viewed from the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral.

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For almost 2,000 years, apart from short breaks, the Vatican City has been located on the right bank of the Tiber on Vatican Hill. According to tradition, the first bishop of Rome, the Apostle Peter, was buried here and martyred. In the fourth century, under Emperor Constantine the Great, construction of the first church began on this site and a papal residence arose, which over the centuries grew into the Holy See ecclesiastical state – it ceased to exist in 1870. – ten years after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. As the Vatican stubbornly resisted its incorporation into the new independent Italian state, on September 20, 1870 Italian troops of the unification movement stormed the Pius Gate and, capturing the city, proclaimed Rome the capital of the Italian kingdom. But it was not until 1929 that Benito Mussolini succeeded in settling relations between the Holy See and the Italian state with the Lateran Accords, by which the Italian state recognized the sovereignty of the pope and the Vatican City as the area of his exclusive authority.

Swiss Guard.

The Papal Lifeguard is made up of a hundred stately Swiss Guard officers, who were first called into service by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. Even today they are Catholics aged between 19 and 25, citizens of Switzerland, with terms of service ranging from 2 to 20 years. Guardsmen wear traditional Renaissance uniform (Medici papal era) or dark blue uniform for maneuvers.


The Vatican is an absolutist state. In the hands of the head of state, elected for life, the pope, sovereign of the Holy See, all power is concentrated: legislative, executive and judicial. He exercises it through a Papal Commission composed of five cardinals, headed by an appointed governor. At present the head of the Vatican is Benedict XVI, elected pope in 2005 by two hundred and sixty-five cardinals. Cardinals have had the sole right to elect a pope since 1049, and only those who have not reached the age of 80 at the moment of election. The official languages of the Vatican are Latin and Italian.

Vatican Museums

Opening hours: in winter 8.45-13.45; in summer until 16.45; last Sunday admission free.

The art collections of the Vatican Museums are considered to be the most important in the world. The entrance from Viale Vaticano leads to the lobby. Tour of the museums goes in one direction, you can choose any of the four options, differing in length – they are marked with different colors.

Collection of antique sculpture in Vatican Museums is the largest in the world, it began to collect in the Renaissance, and incredibly it increased under popes Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799), whose names carry the main part of the collection – Pio Clementino Museum. Pius VII added the Chiaramonti Museum and the new Braccio Nuovo Museum to these collections. Most of the exhibits are found in and around Rome, most often Roman copies of Greek originals or Roman art proper.

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Among the exhibits of the museums can be distinguished the knowledgeable art objects:
  • Braccio Nuovo: Prima Porta Augustus – created around 19 BC. Prototypical imperial statue, with well-defined facial features and armor embellishments in relief.
  • Cabinet of Apoxyomenos: A Roman marble copy of the famous statue of “Apoxyomenos” by Lysippus (4th century B.C.). It depicts a victorious athlete cleaning himself with a strigil from the oil he had rubbed on himself before the fight.
  • Cortile Ottagono: In the courtyard is a statue of Apollo of Belvedere This is also a Roman copy of the original from the 4th century BC, attributed to the ancient Greek sculptor Leochar. Winkelman elevated it to a symbolic figure of Antiquity.
  • The sculptural group “Laocoon” is probably the most famous antique work (1st century B.C.). It depicts the desperate struggle of the Trojan priest Laocoon and his sons against snakes – it is the main work of the Hellenistic era.
  • Hall of Muses: The Belvedere torso according to the signature is the work of Apollonius of Athens (1st century B.C.). Because of the anatomical precision of its plastic depiction, Michelangelo used it as a model for the male figures in the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
  • The Rotunda Room: On the mosaic floor of the Thermae of Orticoli in the center of the room is a huge porphyry bowl (13 meters in circumference) from the Golden House of Emperor Nero. The niches contain statues and busts of gods and heroes, including a bust of Zeus from Orticoli, a copy of the original by the ancient Greek sculptor Briaxius (4th century BC); the figure of Dionysus depicts the handsome Antinoas, the favourite of Emperor Hadrian who drowned in the Nile.

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839, the Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art (the Gregorian Egyptian Museum) exhibits in ten rooms works of Egyptian art found around Rome, but the main exhibits are trophies from the times of the Empire. The Etruscan Museum, also founded by Gregory XVI, tells about the daily life of the Etruscans and their beliefs, including their concept of death, embodied in art and culture.

The Vatican City: A City-State within Rome

Panorama of Rome

The year 2009 marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Vatican City State. The Vatican City is located in the western part of Rome and is the seat of the Pope. In addition, the Vatican owns three cathedrals and a number of palaces and villas in and around Rome.

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June 7, 2009 marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Vatican State.

Vatican City State (official name – Vatican City State) is an independent city-state and the center of the Roman Catholic Church, the residence of its head – the Pope. It is located in the western part of Rome. Its territory is 0.44 square kilometers.

In addition, there are three cathedrals in Rome and its surroundings (the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John Lateran and St. Paul outside the walls), a number of palaces and villas with a total area of 0.7 square kilometers. Near Rome in Castel Gandolfo is the summer country residence of the Pope.

The Vatican occupies an area bounded by Via Porta Angelica, Piazza Risorgimento, Via Leo VI, Via Vaticano minor, Via Della Sagrestia and St. Peter’s Square. According to the latest data, the number of permanent residents of Vatican is about 800 people, 450 of them are clergymen.

The official language is Latin and is used exclusively in the official printed documents of the Vatican and in divine services. In diplomatic correspondence French is used. Italian, Spanish, English, German and French are everyday and colloquial by frequency of use. The currency unit is the euro.

The Papal State has also minted its own coin, the Vatican euro, to a limited extent in accordance with an agreement with the Italian Government of December 29, 2000. The Vatican euro is not to be issued in excess of one million per year.

The main public holidays are Epiphany, Easter, Christmas and the secular holiday – New Year.

State structure

The form of government is an absolute monarchy. The head of state is the Pope. All inhabitants of the Vatican, upon the completion of their eight years, swear an oath to the Pope.

In case of the Pope’s absence or death the current Vatican affairs are managed by the Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, who acts as the Locum Tenens in the period preceding the election of the new Pope.

The Pope has supreme legislative, executive and judicial power. He is competent to represent the Vatican in international relations, to conclude, ratify and denounce international treaties and concordat, to receive diplomatic representatives and to appoint Vatican representatives in other countries. The Pope is elected for life by the College of Cardinals. The election is made at the conclave (Latin for “under the key”) of cardinals by secret ballot by the majority of not less than 2/3 of votes.

The supreme consultative bodies: the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church, the College of Cardinals and the Synod of Bishops.

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The College of Cardinals, an advisory body to the Pope, meets to discuss the most important Church affairs and to elect the Pope. At the time of the election of the pontiff, only cardinals under the age of 80, appointed by the Pope for life, can participate in the collegium (conclave).

About 1/3 of cardinals are included in the Roman Curia (Vatican government), where the practical management of religious, political and economic activities of the Vatican is concentrated. The Roman Curia consists of State Secretariat, 9 congregations (spiritual authorities), 3 tribunals, 12 papal councils and commissions and other authorities.

The Ecumenical (or Vatican) Council is convened every few decades to discuss the most important church problems. The last Council was convened by Pope John Paul II in 1962-1965 (the 21st Ecumenical or Vatican Council).

The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with 178 nations and since December 1991 also with Russia.

It is a Permanent Observer at the UN and was granted voting rights in July 2004. In addition, since August 2008 the Vatican began to cooperate on a permanent basis with Interpol.

The Economy

The Vatican has three main sources of income: the Institute for Religious Affairs (IRA), the Vatican Bank (the budget of which is a few billion dollars a year), the donations of the faithful and the financial and economic activity of its own companies.

The Holy See engages in a wide range of entrepreneurial activities, including financial ones. It possesses big real estate in Europe and Latin America, cooperates with international banks and monopolies. About 3/4 of Vatican capital is invested in Italy. Only in Italy it owns 482 thousand hectares of cultivated land, including several thousands of hectares in Rome area. The Vatican also owns a considerable amount of real estate in Rome through a number of insurance companies.

Visiting groups of pilgrims from all over the world and tourists to the Vatican contribute to the Holy See’s budget. It averages about $90 million annually.

The country has a small but well-organized transportation network with no airports or highways. There is one helicopter station, and a standard railroad connected to the Italian network at St. Peter’s Station in Rome, which is 852 meters long. The railroad is mainly used to transport various goods. Since the Vatican has no airports, it uses airports that serve the city of Rome, within which the Vatican is located.

The Vatican has two vehicle license plate domains of its own: SCV, for vehicles owned by the Vatican and its government departments, and CV, for vehicles of Vatican citizens and people who are allowed to register their vehicles in the Vatican with the consent of the Italian authorities. The international abbreviation is V.


The Vatican is the successor to the Papal Region. In 756 the Frankish King Pepin the Short (father of Charlemagne), in a confrontation with the Lombards and Byzantines, gave Pope Stephen II to Rome and several provinces in central Italy, which constituted the historical core of the Papal State, the so-called “legacy of St Peter”. The Vatican is by far the oldest state formation. The institutions of its state and ecclesiastical authority date directly back to the Roman Empire.

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The Papal state ceased to exist on September 20, 1870, when the troops of King Emmanuel II of Savoy, during the completion of the unification of the country, entered Rome and declared it the capital of Italy. The Pope categorically disagreed with the forcible seizure of Rome and did not recognize its annexation.

After a long period of friction between the Italian government and the Holy See, the parties agreed to a settlement. On February 11, 1929, the Lateran Accords (Concordat), which recognized the sovereignty of the Vatican State, were signed and entered into force on June 7. In 1984 Italy and the Vatican signed a new Concordat. Unlike the previous one, under which Catholicism was officially declared the state religion, the new Concordat gives Italians formally full freedom of choice of religion.

Today the Vatican’s role in international politics, its influence in the world is determined by the sheer number of Catholic believers: over one billion. It is the Catholic clergy (1.9 million of monks and about 0.5 million of priests), about 2 thousand of monastic orders, the largest of which are Jesuits (26 thousand), Franciscans (45 thousand), Salesians, Capuchins, Benedictines and Dominicans.

The Vatican also works through secular Catholic organizations: trade unions, cultural, youth, women’s and others. Many of these organizations are part of the conference of international Catholic organizations, which are coordinated by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Under a certain influence of Vatican there are clerical political parties in different countries of the world.

The Vatican has the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (founded in 1603), which reports directly to the Pope and aims at promoting research in physics, mathematics and natural science, as well as the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Pontifical Observatory.

Pontifical academics are appointed by the Pope from among prominent scientists in the field of mathematics and natural sciences (the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has 78 members, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has 40 members). Russian members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are R. Z. Sagdeev, S. P. Novikov and V. I. Kaylis Borok.

The Vatican publishes hundreds of newspapers and magazines in different countries. The official organ of the Vatican is a daily newspaper “Osservatore Romano” (circulation about 50 thousand copies). The Holy See has its own press agency, Agenzia Internazionale Fides (AIF). Vatican Radio broadcasts in 41 languages including Russian and the languages of the CIS countries.

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