Vatican City, or Stato della Citta del Vaticano as the Italians call it, is the smallest independent state in the world and measures no more than 44 hectares. The country is located in Italy in the capital Rome and is completely enclosed by the city of Rome. This makes Vatican City an enclave within Italy, or an area completely enclosed by the territory of one other country. Although Vatican City is located in Italy and is completely surrounded by a country that is a member of the European Union, Vatican City itself is not a member of the European Union. The Vatican does participate in various international organizations.
Vatican City was created in 1929 as a result of the Lateran Treaty signed by Pope Pius Xi and Benito Mussolini. In this document it was stated that the Vatican City became a newly created state which could not formally be regarded as a continuation or revival of the Papal State.
Vatican City Governance
Like almost every other country, Vatican City is also represented by the Holy See under international law. The Holy See houses the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and is the constitutional position of the Vatican. The Holy See consists of the Pope along with the Secretariat of State and the various congregations and papal councils.
The head of state of the Vatican City is the Pope who has his official residence in the Apostolic Palace. Legislative power in Vatican City is exercised by the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. This committee consists of five cardinals and is headed by a president. In Vatican City, Italian law generally applies, provided that it is not deviated from by means of its own laws and regulations.
The country also has its own fire and police service, the Gendarmerie of Vatican City. In addition, there is the Swiss Guard, this special army unit is responsible for the security of the Pope and the buildings in the country.
Vatican Euro coins
Despite the fact that Vatican City is not a member of the European Union, the country does use the euro as currency. The euros of the Vatican City can be recognized by the image of the Pope. Because Vatican City issuing not many new euro count and regularly introduces new euro coins, there is a real run on the euros of Vatican City, especially among collectors of euro coins.
The Vatican euros with the images of, among others, the Pope are regularly sold for considerably higher amounts than they are legally worth because of the exclusivity. For example, a euro from the Vatican City is sold on various coin websites for prices from 5 till 10 euros, depending on how rare the coin is. Because many Vatican City coins disappear into collectors’ collections, Vatican City euro coins are very rare and the chance that you will ever get one in your wallet during your holiday in Rome is very small.
Population Vatican City
In terms of population, Vatican City has been in the top 3 countries with the least inhabitants for years. Only the Cocos Islands and the Pitcairne Islands, with 596 and 237 inhabitants respectively, have fewer inhabitants than the +/- 1000 people who live in Vatican City. The population of the Vatican City consists mainly of clergy including priests, sisters, cardinals and the famous Swiss garden which is responsible for the security of the Pope and the buildings in Vatican City. In total, about 3000 people work in the Vatican City, but these people do not live in the country.
Of the +/- 1000 inhabitants who live in the Vatican City, about half have the Vatican nationality and therefore a passport of Vatican City. As of December 31, 2011, there were 594 persons who were Vatican City nationals. 71 cardinals, 307 other male clergy, one nun, 109 members of the Swiss garden and 55 lay people. Almost all of these people have dual nationality and therefore have a second passport in addition to their Vatican City passport.
Where in other countries in the world you automatically receive the nationality when you are born, you only get the Vatican nationality through naturalization. Vatican citizenship is primarily for clergy so that they can travel with a Vatican passport and gain diplomatic status in the countries where their credentials have been accepted.
Properties Vatican City
Not only in the Vatican City itself the Holy See of the Vatican City own a large number of real estate. Also in Rome and even in the rest of the world, the Vatican City has a large number of properties. Most of them are in Rome and the rest of Italy. The properties on Italian territory are mainly churches and office buildings. Thanks to the Lateran Treaty, all these possessions have an extraterritorial status comparable to the status of a country’s embassy. Below is a list of all the Vatican’s belongings.
- The Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano
- The Lateran Apostolic Palace and the Scala Santa.
- The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
- The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
- The Cancelleria Palace
- The Palazzo di Propaganda Fide
- The Palace of Saint Callixtus in Trastevere
- The Palazzo del Sant’Offizio with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- The Palazzo dei Convertendi, the seat of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches
- The Vicariato Palace
- The Palazzo delle Congregazioni ai Propilei
- The Palazzo Pio
- The Pontificio Seminario Romano Minore
- The buildings at the Janiculum (Romence Pio Pontifical College, Pontifical Ukrainian University of St. Josaphat, Pontifical North American College, Hospital of the Infant Jesus, Church and Monastery of St. Onofrio, Pontifical Municipal University, Technical Services Area of the Holy See, the College of International Santa Monica, General Curia of the Society of Jesus, Institute of the Child Mary, Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, buildings of the Calasanziane Sisters, the Sisters of Our House and the buildings on Borgo Santo Spirito adjacent to the Jesuit curia)
Outside of Rome
- Castel Gandolfo and Lake AlbanoThe Papal Palace
- Villa Barberini and the Villa Cybo in the town of Castel Gandolfo
- The area of Santa Maria di Galeria, where the antennas of the Vatican Radio are located. This territory was donated by Italy to the Holy See on October 8, 1951
Sightseeing in Vatican City
Although Vatican City is very small, there is plenty to see in Vatican City. Many of the sights in Vatican City are open to the normal tourist, some for a entrance fee and some, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, are free to visit. It is also special that all sights of the Vatican City are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
You will find the gigantic St. Peter’s Square where the Pope holds the famous service during Easter and Christmas. In addition, St. Peter’s Basilica is a major attraction of the Vatican City. This beautiful church attracts many millions of visitors every year, which is also clearly visible in the long queues in front of the basilica.
Also a must-do visit during your city trip in Rome are the Vatican Museums (I Musei Vatica) which are located in the Apostolic palaces. In total, the Vatican Museums consist of 26 separate museums where you can admire tens of thousands of art treasures from all over the world that the Catholic Church has collected, stolen or received over the past centuries. The main attraction of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel. In the Sistine Chapel you can admire the most famous paintings by the famous painter Michelangelo. In this painting, which depicts the creation of Adam, the hand of God can be seen reaching with an outstretched finger to the hand of Adam.
Behind the Vatican Museums you can find the the beautiful Vatican Gardens. These gardens cover more than half of the territory of the Vatican City and provide the necessary cooling, especially in the hot summers, thanks to the shady areas in the gardens. The Vatican Gardens can be visited, but only by appointment. More information about visiting the Vatican Gardens can be found on the page “Vatican Gardens”.
In addition, there are also two sights in Vatican City that are not accessible to tourists but only to accredited scientists. These are the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and The Archivio Segreto Vaticano.