Saint Peter's Square

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St. Peter's Square in Rome
41° 54' 8" N, 12° 27' 23" E (41.902222, 12.456389)

Saint Peter's square is a large plaza in Rome, Italy located in front of a church known as a Basilica. It is noteworthy in history as the place where Emperor Nero, after blaming Christians for the fires that consumed Rome, began to put them to death in 67 A.D.

The obelisk in the middle of Saint Peter's square came from Heliopolis in Egypt. Roman Emperor Caligula (emperor from 37 to 41 A.D.) took the obelisk to use as decoration for the circus' spina. It is the last remaining piece of the circus.

Rome was considered the capital city of the Papal states from the 8th to the middle of the 19th century. Catholic Popes were rulers over pieces of Italy for hundreds of years until around the very early 1860s when many Papal land holdings were seized in a push to have a unified state. When the city of Rome itself was annexed in 1870 and made the capital of a unified Italian kingdom a year later, the holdings of the pope were diminished further.

After years of dispute three treaties (Lateran) were agreed to in 1929 by Italy and the church. They created what we today call Vatican City. These treaties gave Catholicism a unique status in the country. The Lateran Treaties also granted the state authority over twenty-three locations in the city of Rome (including Saint Peter's square) including the Pope's residence at Castel Gandolfo (his summer home).

Present concerns include threats against minority Christian communities in Africa and the Middle East, sexual misconduct by priests and the clergy, and the application of church dogma in the 21st century.

How are Catholic Bibles different?

Did Jesus give Peter the keys to heaven?

Where in Rome were most Christians killed?

Is Vatican City the world's smallest state?


The total area of what is known as Vatican city (the Holy See) is 0.44 square kilometers (or .169 square miles). This makes Vatican City the world's smallest state.


836 (July 2012 estimate).

Vatican City's Economy

The world's smallest state is funded through a variety of ways. Income, in part, is derived from fees charged in the Vatican's museums and from various publications. Coins, stamps and other tourist mementos are also sold to generate income. The income of the average worker within the state is on par with the wages paid to workers in other parts of Rome.


Vatican City industries include printing, coin production, and the creation of stamps and medals. The states also has activities in banks and other financial-related activities.


The defense of the state is the responsibility of Italy. Ceremonial and limited security duties are performed by the Pontifical Swiss Guard (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera Pontificia).


Popes are elected and serve until death (they can retire before dying) by a College of Cardinals. Elections only occur upon the sitting Pope's death.

Additional Study Materials
Who exactly was Peter?
What false teachings are in Michelangelo's fresco?
Where did the Catholics get the title of Pope?
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Saint Peter's Square