Vatican City Explained (2023)


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Vatican City: capitol of the Catholic Church, home to the pope, owner of impressive collections of art and history all contained within the borders of the world's smallest country:, conveniently circumnavigateable on foot in only 40 minutes.


How did the world end up with this tiny nation?? The short answer is:, because Mussolini and the long answer is fiendishly complicated.

So here's a simplified medium, version:, The, popes used to rule a country called the Papal States that covered much of modern day.


It was, during this 1,000+ year, reign that the Popes constructed St.

Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world -- and also built a wall around the base of a hill known as Vatican, upon which St.

Peter's Stood.

But, the Kingdom of Italy next door, thought Rome would be an awesome capital for their country and so conquered the Papal States.

His nation destroyed.

The Pope hid behind the walls of Vatican and conflictingly refused to acknowledge that the Kingdom of Italy existed, while simultaneously complaining about being a prisoner of the Kingdom of Italy -- which, according to him, didn't exist.

Rather than risk religious civil war by getting rid of the pope.

The Kingdom of Italy decided to wait him out, assuming he'd eventually give up --.

But religion is nothing if not obstinate -- and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, popes and sixty years later nothing had changed.

Which brings us to Benito Mussolini.

The then prime minister of Italy, who was tired of listing to the Pope, complain to Italian Catholics about his self-imposed imprisonment.

So Mussolini thought he could score some political points.

By striking a deal which looked like this:, 1) Italy gave the land of Vatican to the Pope.

and… 2) Italy gave the Pope a bunch of apology, money, In return, 1), The Pope acknowledged that Italy existed and and… 2) The Pope promised to remain neutral in politics and wars.

On the off chance that, you know, Mussolini thought this might be a thing.

The deal was signed and a new country, Vatican City was born.


Today the tiny nation on a hill has all the things you'd expect of a country:, its own government.

That makes its own laws that are enforced by its own police, who put people who break them in its own jail.

It also has its own bank and prints its own stamps and issues its own license.

Plates, though only its citizens can drive within its borders, presumably because of terrible, terrible parking -- and as the true mark of any self-respecting nation:, it has its own top-level domain: .VA But.

Despite all these national trappings, Vatican City is not really like any other country.

Hold on to your fancy hat, because it's about to get weird: To understand the Vatican:.

There are two people and two things that you need to know: about: the famous pope, the incredibly confusing Holy See, The Country of Vatican City, and, along with that, the almost completely unknown King of Vatican City.


First, the Pope: who gets a throne to sit upon and from which he acts as the Bishop for all the Catholics in Rome.

Actually, all Bishops in the Catholic Church get their own thrones, but because the Bishop of Rome is also the Pope.

His thrown is special and has it's own special name: The Holy See.

Every time a Pope dies or retires.

There is a sort of game of thrones to see which of the bishops will next get to occupy the Holy See.


While Popes come and go, the throne is eternal.

As such the name.

The Holy See not only refers to the throne, but also all the rules that make the Catholic Church the Catholic Church.

When Mussolini.

Crafted that aforementioned deal.

Technically he gave the land of Vatican City to The, Holy, See, -- which, believe it or not, is a legal corporate person in international law.


Every time you hear the words The, Holy See think Catholic Church, Inc, of which the Pope is the CEO.

Now back to the King.

The King of Vatican City has absolute, unchecked power within the country's borders, and his presence makes Vatican City, one of only six remanning absolute monarchies in the world, including Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Swaziland.

The King's absolute power is why.

Vatican City can't join the European Union, because only democracies are allowed.

Through Vatican.

City does, strictly speaking, have a legislative brach of government -- staffed by cardinals, appointed by the pope -- the King of Vatican City can overrule their decisions and at any time for any reason.


Why do you? Never hear about the King of Vatican? City?? Because, though? King and Pope are two different? Roles, they just happen to be occupied by the same person at the same time.

-- which has the funny consequence that, because the Pope is elected, and the King is all-powerful, but they're the same guy.

It makes Vatican City the world's only elected.

Non-Hereditary absolute monarchy.


This dual-role, that makes untangling Vatican City.

So difficult because the Pope, depending on the situation, either acts as The King of the country of Vatican City or the Pope of the Holy See.

Got it? No? OK.

Here's an analogy: Imagine if a powerful international company, say Grey Industries, had a CEO who convinced the United States to give one of its islands to the Company, which then made the island into a new country.

-- Greytropolis -- with an absolute monarchy as its government and the law that the King of Greytropolis is, by definition, the CEO of Grey Industries.

It's, pretty obvious at that point that the CEO should move his corporate headquarters to the new nation -- so that the laws of the country can benefit the company and the company's global reach can benefit the country.

As for the man in the middle.

Sometimes it's good to the the CEO, and sometimes it's good to be.

The king.

That is essentially Vatican, City.

But, if you're still confused, don't worry.

Even other countries can't keep it straight.

For example.

The United Nations has The Holy See the corporation as a member, but not Vatican City, the actual country.

And The Holy See gives passports to Vatican City citizens that other countries accept, even though those passports come from a company, not a country.

And speaking of Vatican City citizens.

They are perhaps the strangest consequence of the Pope's dual role as religious leader and monarch.


Other countries mint new citizens with the ever popular process of human reproduction, Vatican City, does not.

No one in Vatican.

City is born a citizen -- and that's not just because.

Within a rounding error, there are no female Vaticans.


Only way to become a citizen is for the King of Vatican City to appoint you as one.


The King only appoints you a citizen.

If you work for the Pope -- who is also the King.

And, because the King is all-powerful, your citizenship is at his whim.


You quit your job for the Pope, the King -- who is also the pope.


Will revoke your citizenship.

These rules mean that Vatican City doesn't have a real permanent population to speak of:.

There are only about 500 full citizens -- which is fewer people that live in single skyscrapers in many countries, -- and all these citizens work for The, Holy See as either Cardinals or Diplomats, or the Pope's bodyguards or other Catholic-related jobs.

So, it's best to think of Vatican City as a kind of Sovereign Corporate Headquarters that grants temporary citizenship to its managers, rather than a real city-state like Singapore:, which has a self-reproducing population of citizens engaged in a variety of economic activities, both of which Vatican City lacks.

But in the end.

The reason the world cares about Vatican City is not because of the citizens within its walls, but because of the billion members of its church outside those walls.


Vatican City Explained? ›

Vatican City, in full State of the Vatican City, Italian Stato della Città del Vaticano, landlocked ecclesiastical state, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and an enclave in Rome, situated on the west bank of the Tiber River. Vatican City is the world's smallest fully independent nation-state.

What is the explanation of Vatican City? ›

Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.

Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over 100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York's Central Park. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head.

What is so special about Vatican City? ›

Site of the tomb of the Apostle Saint Peter, first of the uninterrupted succession of Roman Pontiffs, and therefore a main pilgrimage centre, the Vatican is directly and tangibly linked with the history of Christianity. Furthermore, it is both an ideal and an exemplary creation of the Renaissance and of Baroque art.

How do you explain Vatican to a child? ›

National anthem of Vatican CityVatican City is the smallest country in the world. It is the home of the pope, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. From Vatican City the pope directs the government of the church. Vatican City is also called the Vatican or the Holy See.

Why was Vatican City made a country? ›

The world's smallest city-state came into existence on the 11th of February 1929 after the signing of the Lateran Treaty. This treaty granted Vatican City the status of a country, bringing to an end a period of political and religious turmoil in Italy.

Why didn t popes leave the Vatican for more than 50 years after 1870? ›

For the next 59 years, the popes refused to leave the Vatican in order to avoid any appearance of accepting the authority wielded by the Italian government over Rome as a whole. During this period, popes also refused to appear at Saint Peter's Square or at the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica facing it.

Does Vatican City have an army? ›

Swiss Guards, Italian Guardia Svizzera, corps of Swiss soldiers responsible for the safety of the pope. Often called “the world's smallest army,” they serve as personal escorts to the pontiff and as watchmen for Vatican City and the pontifical villa of Castel Gandolfo.

Can you just walk into Vatican City? ›

To enter Vatican City, you don't need a passport or Visa or even tickets for the attractions inside. You can simply walk inside. However, if you wish to enter the attractions inside, such as the Vatican Museums, you would need to buy tickets.

Does the pope get a salary? ›

Popes usually get paid hendsomely, the current wage he gets is $32,000 on a monthly basis but he refused to get any of that money. Instead, Pope Francis decided to either donate this money to the church, use it to endow a foundation, placed in trust or pass it on to a family member.

What are 6 things that you can see do at the Vatican? ›

10 Best Things to Do at the Vatican
  • The Sistine Chapel.
  • St. Peter's Dome.
  • Michelangelo's Pieta.
  • Colonnade of St. Peter's Square.
  • St. Peter's Baldachin.
  • The famous staircase of the Vatican Museums.
  • Aerial view of the Vatican Gardens.
  • View from Castel St'Angelo.

What is the difference between the Pope and the Holy See? ›

The Holy See is the universal government of the Catholic Church and operates from Vatican City State, a sovereign, independent territory. The Pope is the ruler of both Vatican City State and the Holy See.

Is the Holy See the same as the Vatican city? ›

Although it is often referred to by the term "the Vatican", the Holy See is not the same entity as the Vatican City State, which came into existence only in 1929, while the Holy See, the episcopal see of Rome, dates back to early Christian times.

How many children have been born in the Vatican? ›

No one is born in the Vatican State

Although the Vatican City is home to approximately 1,000 residents no one is born there.

Has anyone been born in Vatican City? ›

Cardinals who live in Vatican City or Rome, as well as diplomats of the Holy See, are also considered citizens. And technically, no-one can be born in the Vatican as there are no hospitals! For those who wish to move to the Vatican must have their citizenship approved by the Pope, or papal authority.

Why is it called the Holy See? ›

Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, which is led by the pope as the bishop of Rome. The word see comes from the Latin sedes, meaning “seat,” which refers to the episcopal chair occupied by a bishop and the area over which he has responsibility.

What is the Vatican worth? ›

And last year, the Vatican's former finance minister, Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, spoke with the Vatican News about the Holy See's financial statements for 2021, revealing that it had 3.9 billion euros in total assets. Adjusted for 2023 dollars, that's almost $5 billion.

Can anyone live in Vatican City? ›

The clergy (those who contribute to the operation of the Vatican City religiously) and the Swiss Guards who 'defend' the Vatican City are the only people allowed to reside inside the Vatican City.

Why did pope Benedict leave the Vatican? ›

Berlin, Germany: Ex-pope Benedict, who recently died, described years of persistent sleeping troubles as the "main reason" behind his shock decision to step down in 2013, according to a German media report Friday.

What went wrong after Vatican II? ›

After Vatican II, instead of enjoying the expected renaissance, the Church seemed to fall apart: priests and bishops rejected Church teachings, convents and seminaries emptied, and laypeople were thrown into confusion.

Why is the Vatican guarded by the Swiss Guard? ›

Medieval tradition. The origins of the Swiss Guard date back over five hundred years. Late in the Middle Ages, it became a tradition to recruit Swiss mercenaries as special military units. The Swiss soldiers were famous for their military professionalism.

Where does Vatican get money? ›

Vatican City generates revenue through museum admissions and the sale of coins, stamps, and publications. The Vatican Bank has been at the center of numerous financial scandals, which has prompted Pope Francis to institute reforms that provide financial accountability and transparency.

Why is the Vatican so heavily guarded? ›

The mission statement of the Papal Swiss Guard is a straightforward one and has not changed since they were formed in 1506. It is to protect the Pope and his residence "if called for, even by giving one's own life".

Can you wear shorts in the Vatican? ›

The dress code for the Vatican Museums is strict but easy to respect. Low-cut or sleeveless dresses, miniskirts, shorts and hats are not allowed. To cover knees and shoulders you can buy plastic cloaks to wrap around. Inside it is preferable to wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.

Why don't you need a passport for Vatican City? ›

So, do you need a passport to go to Vatican City? In short, no. The Vatican City has no airport and no sea borders, so the only way to enter is from Italy. The Vatican has an open-border policy with Italy (quite literally – it's almost impossible to tell exactly where one ends and the other begins!)

What is not allowed in the Vatican? ›

Forbidden Items

Knives, scissors, and/or metal tools of various types to be stored in the cloakroom. Firearms or other dangerous materials cannot be brought into the Museums. The use of any type of laser pointer and amplified microphones are not permitted in the Vatican Museums.

Does the pope get his balls checked? ›

A cardinal would have the task of putting his hand up the hole to check whether the pope had testicles, or doing a visual examination. This procedure is not taken seriously by most historians, and there is no documented instance.

Does the pope use a cell phone? ›

Pope Francis speaks on a cell phone, given to him by his aide Piergiorgio Zanetti, at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. VATICAN CITY (AP) — Maybe heaven can wait, but a phone call for the pope could not.

What does the pope do all day? ›

DAILY ROUTINE: Francis rises on his own at around 4:30 a.m. and spends the next two hours praying, meditating on the Scripture readings for the day and preparing his morning homily. He delivers it off-the-cuff at the 7 a.m. Mass in the chapel of the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel where he lives.

Why can't you take pictures at the Vatican? ›

The Sistine Chapel

In return, Nippon got exclusive rights to film and photograph the artwork. That copyright actually expired three years after each part of the restoration was complete, but the Vatican decided to keep the photography ban in place to protects the precious artwork from harmful camera flashes.

What is the most popular food in Vatican City? ›

Pasta is popular in the Vatican, being one of Pope Francis' favorite dishes.

What happens if you take pictures in the Vatican? ›

Most cameras are allowed inside the Vatican Museums, and you are allowed to take photographs for personal use. However, using flash for photographs is strictly prohibited. Professional cameras and equipment are also prohibited (ex. drones, tripods, stands).

Why is the pope buried in three coffins? ›

The body of a deceased Pope is a barrier in three coffins that all fit inside one another. The first layer is a coffin made of cypress wood. Here, the coins of his pontificate will be introduced, as well as the pallium and a text that summarizes his work as Pope. The latter object will be installed in a metal cylinder.

Does the Pope believe in the Virgin Mary? ›

Popes promulgated Marian veneration and beliefs by authorizing: new Marian feast days, Marian prayers and initiatives, acceptance and support of Marian congregations, indulgences and special privileges, and support for Marian devotions.

How much money is to see the Pope? ›

There are a few different ways to see the Pope every week, and each opportunity is entirely free. You can also take a tour with a professional local guide who has secured tickets for a papal audience, or who knows the best places to look in order to spot him.

Does the Pope live in Holy See? ›

The Vatican palace is the residence of the pope within the city walls. The Holy See is the name given to the government of the Roman Catholic Church, which is led by the pope as the bishop of Rome. As such, the Holy See's authority extends over Catholics throughout the world.

What power does the Pope have? ›

The pope, as bishop of Rome, is thus seen to have full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal church in matters of faith and morals, as well as in church discipline and government.

Who founded Catholicism? ›

According to Catholic tradition, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. The New Testament records Jesus' activities and teaching, His appointment of the twelve Apostles, and His instructions to them to continue His work.

Which pope had a child? ›

Popes who were legally married
Adrian II867–872Yes (a daughter)
John XVII1003Yes (three sons)
Clement IV1265–1268Yes (two daughters)
Honorius IV1285–1287Yes (at least two sons)
3 more rows

Who was the 12 year old pope? ›

Benedict IX was pope on 3 separate occasions during his lifetime, with the first being when he was just 12 years old. He grew to be a wicked boy and ran from the position to hide within the city when political opponents tried to murder him.

Which pope gave birth? ›

1100. In this account the nameless pontiff was a clever scribe who became a papal notary and later was elected pope; pregnant at the time of her election, she gave birth during the procession to the Lateran, whereupon she was dragged out of Rome and stoned to death.

Are females allowed in Vatican City? ›

Women (and men) visiting St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican Museums in Vatican City are expected to wear appropriate attire. Low cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, miniskirts and hats (for men, indoors) are not allowed. Women may or may not wear the traditional "black hat or veil".

What famous person lives at the Vatican city? ›

The Pope is one of the most famous religious people in the entire world. Also named as the Bishop of Rome, he is the head of the entire Catholic Church. The word 'Pope' comes from the Greek word 'Pappas', which translates to father.

Can you wear jeans at the Vatican? ›

The Vatican has a dress code that some travellers might not be aware of when visiting. Luckily if you're planning on wearing jeans to the Vatican, you definitely can! When you plan to visit, it's best to keep your knees and shoulders covered. And for footwear, you will need flat shoes, not flip-flops or casual sandals.

Does the US recognize the Holy See? ›

The United States formally recognized the Holy See on January 10, 1984, when President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II agreed to the establishment of diplomatic relations.

What is the main religion in the Holy See? ›

The Holy See is the universal government of the Catholic Church and operates from Vatican City State, a sovereign, independent territory. The Pope is the ruler of both Vatican City State and the Holy See.

Why is called Roman Catholic? ›

Since you were baptized into the rites, traditions, and customs of the Roman Catholic Church, that is the Latin Rite – you refer to yourself as Roman Catholic. You fall under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, whose territorial dioceses extend around the world.

How does the Pope make money? ›

Nothing. In 2001, the Vatican confirmed that the pope "does not and has never received a salary". As a Jesuit, Pope Francis had already taken a vow of poverty.

What is the richest entity in the world? ›

Saudi Aramco, the world's richest company, is more profitable than Italy, Brazil, Canada and Russia. The UK's richest corporations have a larger market cap than Belgium, Sweden and Thailand.

Which Pope spent the most money? ›

Excessive spending

Leo was renowned for spending money lavishly on the arts; on charities; on benefices for his friends, relatives, and even people he barely knew; on dynastic wars, such as the War of Urbino; and on his own personal luxury.

What is the significance of the Vatican city and why is it important? ›

The Vatican is the heart of the Catholic Church and serves as a pilgrimage spot for many Catholics and Christians; visit on a Wednesday and you can see the Pope's general audience to the masses or catch his weekly Sunday blessing.

What does Vatican mean in Christianity? ›

Vatican. / (ˈvætɪkən) / noun. the palace of the popes in Rome and their principal residence there since 1377, which includes administrative offices, a library, museum, etc, and is attached to the basilica of St Peter's. (as modifier): the Vatican Council.

Is the Vatican the holiest place in the world? ›

10 Majestic Places To Visit In Vatican City, The Holiest Destination In The World. Spread over only 0.44 square kilometers, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world famous all over the world for its beauty. It shares its borders with Rome and is known to be the holiest place in all of Europe.

Why is pope so important in the world? ›

The papacy is an additional source of authority for Catholics. While many Catholics often turn to theBible for guidance, they are also able to turn to the teachings of the pope. The pope is important as he represents a direct line back to Jesus . In this sense, Catholics see Jesus as being present in the papacy.

What is the most important thing in Vatican City? ›

Visit St.

No visit to the Vatican would be complete without seeing St. Peter's Basilica. One of the largest churches ever built, the building that we see today is actually the second St. Peter's Basilica.

What Bible does the Vatican use? ›

The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE) is a Bible translation approved for use by the Catholic Church, receiving the imprimatur of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1991.

What was the Vatican before Christianity? ›

The area off the west bank of the Tiber River that comprises the Vatican was once a marshy region known as Ager Vaticanus. During the early years of the Roman Empire, it became an administrative region populated by expensive villas, as well as a circus built in the gardens of Emperor Caligula's mother.

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