Vatican City, also known as the State of the Vatican City in Italian, is a papal state, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, and a territory in Rome located on the west side of the Tiber River. The Vatican City State is the world's smallest fully autonomous nation-state. Home to some of the world’s best Rennaisance and Neoclassical art and architecture, the Vatican draws pilgrims and tourists from around the world. The most impressive structure is St. Peter's Basilica, which was erected in the fourth century and renovated in the sixteenth. It is the second biggest ecclesiastical edifice in Christendom and was built on the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle. The Vatican Museums - 54 in number- are the biggest attractions here, and are renowned across their world as one of the grandest and most expansive repositories of art. In fact, the city is home to what is perhaps the world’s most famous sculpture and painting- the sculpture of Pieta in the Basilica, and Michelangelo’s frescoes on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.
The majority of the population in Vatican City comprises Christians, with Catholicism being the official religion. This sovereign city-state serves as the residence of the Pope and holds profound significance as the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope holds a unique position as both the ruler of Vatican City State and the Bishop of Rome, leading the global Roman Catholic community. According to Catholic beliefs, Saint Peter, chosen by Jesus as the first leader of his church, is considered the predecessor to the Pope, establishing a strong historical and spiritual connection that continues to influence the faith and governance within the Vatican.
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Undoubtedly, Vatican City holds immense cultural significance, boasting several remarkable treasures. St. Peter's Basilica, the world's largest cathedral, and the Vatican Museums, renowned for housing iconic artworks, contribute to its cultural prominence. The Vatican Library preserves a valuable collection of historical, scientific, and cultural importance. Such attributes led to its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1984, a unique honor for a nation.
Another distinct aspect is the Vatican's role in preserving the Latin language, which is under its de facto custody. As a theocracy, religion stands at the core of its governance, with the Pope's leadership influencing both spiritual and administrative matters. This remarkable fusion of art, history, faith, and governance solidifies the Vatican's position as an extraordinary and culturally significant destination.
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Nestled near the right bank of the Tiber River, the Vatican City occupies a historical site once known as the Vatican Hill. This area was adorned with villas long before the birth of Christ. Today, the state encompasses 44 hectares of land and is partially enclosed by walls. Its boundary extends to a strip of travertine on St. Peter's Plaza, demarcating the state's edge at the square, usually open to the public. This unique location, rich in history and spiritual significance, serves as a symbolic heart of the Roman Catholic Church and a beacon of cultural heritage recognized worldwide.
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Italian serves as the official language of Vatican City, utilized for official communication, administrative functions, and diplomatic engagements. In historical times, Latin held prominence during the rule of the Roman Empire and the Papal States in the region that now encompasses Vatican City. Presently, Latin remains the official language of the Holy See, while Italian serves as the common language for everyday interactions. One fascinating fact about Vatican City is the presence of an ATM that operates in Latin, reflecting the city's deep-rooted historical and cultural connections. French is occasionally employed in diplomatic contexts.
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The Vatican is a sovereign nation with its own currency, and its coins hold legal tender status not only in Italy but also in other countries, thanks to a monetary agreement with the Italian government. In 2000, Italy and the Vatican City established an agreement allowing the Vatican to adopt the euro as its official currency, even though it is not a member of the European Union or the Eurozone.
To assert its independence as a city-state, the Vatican Euro features an image of the Pope on the reverse side. This distinctive design sets it apart from regular euro coins and serves as a symbol of the Vatican's unique status in the global financial landscape. Thus, the Vatican maintains its autonomy in monetary matters while participating in international trade and financial transactions with its own currency.
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Like Rome, the Vatican enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. It experiences hot, dry summers from May to August and moderate, wet winters from September to May. The Popes used to spend the summers in the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo because of these arid seasons. If you’re looking to visit Vatican City, April to October should be the months to consider. These months comprise summer in Vatican City, and witness a comparatively warm and pleasant weather.
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A History with Ancient Roots: The Vatican was merely a tiny plain near the banks of the Tiber with a small hill, the Vatican Hill, towards the end of the Roman Republic (509 BCE to 27 BCE). Since several oracles used to reside there during Roman Classical Antiquity, the name Vaticanus can be traced back to the term "vaticinium," which signifies "oracle." Roman nobility used the Vatican Hill as a getaway destination, constructing villas and opulent houses beside the Caligula-era Imperial Gardens. Numerous Christian victims, including St. Peter himself, were persecuted at the Circus Maximus during Nero's rule. In fact, where Peter was then buried now houses one of the most important landmarks in Vatican tourism- the ever fascinating St. Peter’s Basilica.
The hill was converted into the popes' home following the fall of the Roman Empire in 476. At the close of the fifth century, Pope Symmachus constructed a palace where governing bodies and religious leaders might remain. The pope became one of the largest landowners in Europe during the reign of Constantine and the Kingdom of the Lombards because of numerous contributions over the years, notably land holdings.
The Papal States, which were governed by the pope from 752 to 1870, were established in the eighth century thanks to gifts from Pepin the Short in 754 and Charlemagne in 774. Due to the contributions, the pope received possession of an area that the Lombards had previously inhabited, which helped to establish their authority. Towards the turn of the 12th century, Papal States broke away from the Holy Roman Empire with the Treaty of Venice in 1177.
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The enlightenment brought about change, which the rest of Europe saw as good, but the pope of the 16th century was extremely conservative and attempted to thwart it. The papacy didn't join the Italian Renaissance until the election of Pope Nicholas V (1447–1455). They constructed the Vatican Palace, one of the pope's apartments starting in 1447.
The first two popes of the Renaissance were Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) and Pope Innocent VIII (1484–1492).Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling during Pope Julius II's reign, and Rome was designated as the center of sacred art. Under Julius II, the Vatican Gardens were renovated, the modern Saint Peter's Basilica was painted, and the Cortile del Belvedere was constructed.
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On February 6, 1798, following the French Revolution, Napoleon's army led by the Directory stormed Rome. To maintain his spiritual authority, the pope was compelled to relinquish his own. The Directory took over the Papal States when the Pope was forced to flee Rome. Napoleon conquered the Papal States in 1808, but they were relinquished during the Congress of Vienna and Napoleon I's abdication in 1815.
The question of unification of Italy in the 19th century gave rise to disputes when the papacy opposed the shift. As a result arose the ‘Roman Question’, which led to military conflicts and the eventual removal of papal power from Latium. The Roman Question came to a conclusion with the Lateran Agreement, which recognized Vatican City as an elective absolute monarchy by divine right.
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One of the most well-known examples of Renaissance architecture, St. Peter’s Basilica occupies the pinnacle of art and architectural flourish. It is the largest Church in the world, and is inextricably linked with Vatican history. Pope Julius II started building the Basilica in 1506 and Pope Paul V finished it in 1615. Above the high altar, which houses the shrine of St.
Peter the Apostle, it is fashioned as a three-aisled Latin cross with a dome at the crossing. Numerous Renaissance and Baroque works of art may be seen within St. Peter's, but some of the most well-known are Michelangelo's Pietà, Bernini's baldachin, the statue of St. Longinus, the tomb of Urban VIII, and the bronze cathedra of St. Peter in the apse.
Numbering up to 54, the Vatican Museums are among the most interesting places to visit when you visit Vatican.With more than 70,000 pieces of art inside the walls of Vatican City, the Roman papal city houses one of the world's largest and most revered collections of art and architecture. However, just a small portion of these roughly 20,000 are on display, with the remaining 50,000 remaining in secure storage. Vatican City is home to 54 galleries, collectively referred to as the Vatican Museums, to house such an extraordinary amount of works of art. The 1400 rooms that make up these galleries offer the perfect lighting and surroundings for protecting and showcasing each work of art.
The Papal Apostolic Palace's northern boundary was once bordered by orchards and vineyards, which is where the Vatican Gardens had their origins. In 1279, Pope Nicholas III relocated his residence from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican, enclosing this region with walls. He planted a garden, a meadow, and an orchard.
The Vatican Gardens are currently a diverse panorama of woodlands, monuments from the Middle Ages, statues, and floral additions. Tourists who visit Vatican City will need to book an official tour of the gardens to be able to enter it. The most famous locations, including the Grotta di Lourdes, the Casio Pius IV, the Giardino Quadrato, and the Fontana dell'Aquilone, may be seen on this one-of-a-kind trip.
The small town of Castel Gandolfo takes its name from the quite literal Castle that sits atop a hill here. One of the most beautiful towns in Italy, Gandolfo is located just a few miles outside Vatican City, and makes for an excellent excursion when you visit Vatican. The Castle itself is now a famed heritage villa, frequented by tourists from around the world. The city, however, is home to a smattering of stunning medieval buildings as well, such as the Pontifical Palace, Church of St. Thomas of Villanova, and the Bergantino Nymphaeum.
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Although the exterior facade of the Sistine Chapel is largely unadorned, the Chapel is home to what is perhaps the most valuable collection of artwork within the walls of Vatican City itself. An invaluable asset in Vatican history, the Chapel’s walls and altars are adorned with elaborate frescoes of erstwhile Florentian Masters, with Michelangelo being the biggest name.
The ceiling fresco by Michelangelo is in itself one of the biggest attractions in Vatican City, while the Last Judgment is another one of his masterful works displayed here. The Chapel also features frescoes by Pinturicchio, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli, among others, along with a set of tapestries woven by Raphael.
Vatican Tourism remains incomplete without a visit to St. Peter’s Square, the central plaza at Vatican City. One of the largest squares in the world, St. Peter’s Square was built on the very spot where the eponymous Saint had been assassinated. The piazza is home to some of the most important landmarks in Vatican City, with the St. Peter’s Basilica being the largest and most important one of them. The Square is also home to a series of impressive watering fountains, which every tourist inevitably comes across when they visit Vatican.
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Must Know the Interesting Facts about Vatican City
Smallest Country in the world: With a population of 825 people, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. In terms of area, the city covers only 121 acres.
Only UNESCO Heritage Nation: One of the most interesting Vatican City facts is perhaps that it is the only country in the world to be recognized as a World Heritage Site as a whole.
No Permanent Citizenships: No one is born a citizen of Vatican City; in fact, people can only achieve citizenship with employment in the city. The citizen status is then revoked when jobs are transferred.
The Wine Capital of the World: It is said that Vatican City - or those that live here- consume more wine per capita than any other nation in the world.
The City Has no Army: As an unarmed state, Vatican city has no army of its own. All military operations are carried out by the Swiss Guards, who act as the official military regiment of the Pope.
What is the Vatican City?
Located in the Italian capital of Rome, the Vatican City is the seat of the Roman Capital Church. Most naturally, Vatican tourism landmarks include the St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world.
Yes, it is highly recommended to book Vatican Museums tickets in advance. This allows you to skip long queues, secure entry during busy periods, choose preferred time slots, and ensure availability for special exhibitions or events.
Where is Vatican City located?
The independent city state is located within Rome, the capital of Italy.
What currency do I need to carry with me when visiting Vatican City?
One should carry their money in euros when they visit Vatican city.
How big is Vatican City?
In terms of size, the Vatican City is only 121 acres big- this is half the size of Monaco, the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican itself.
What can I see inside Vatican City?
Vatican City tourism is replete with architectural landmarks that have contributed significantly to Vatican History: the Sistine Chapel with its frescos, the largest church in the world, and the Vatican Museum with its staggering collection of artwork are only some of them.
What is the Vatican famous for?
The Vatican is famous of course, as the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy. However, its collection of art and architecture draw tourists by the flock as well.
What language is spoken in Vatican City?
The most widely spoken language in the Vatican City is Italian.