Vatican City

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Flag of Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Flag of State
Coat of Arms of Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Coat of Arms

Vatican city, considered the world's smallest state, is an independent and landlocked state which exists entirely within Rome, Italy. Under International law the city is considered a national territory. It covers an area of roughly 110 acres, making it the smallest state in terms of both total area and population.

It is not entirely accurate to refer to Vatican City using the term "Holy See." The Holy See is not a country or state but rather the entity that oversees over 1.2 billion Catholic members (the world's largest religious faith) and has a history dating back to early Christianity. While state ordinances are published in Italian, the official Holy See documents are written primarily in Latin.

In addition to its own diplomacy, the See conducts diplomatic relations on behalf of Vatican City and enters into international agreements for it. The current Pope that oversees church affairs, known officially as the Supreme Pontiff, is Pope Francis.

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The word "Vatican," which predates Christianity, comes from the Latin Mons Vaticanus and refers to the mount on which it sits.


The city generated a modest surplus in 2012 before recording a $32 million deficit in 2013, driven primarily by the falling value of gold. In early 2014 the Pope created the Secretariat of the Economy to oversee financial and administrative operations.


The defense of the city is the responsibility of Italy. The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as the personal bodyguard of the Pope and continues to fulfil that function. At the end of 2005 the Guard had 134 members. All recruits must be Catholic, between the ages of 19 and 30, unmarried and have Swiss citizenship.

What is in it?

The official territory of the City is part of Rome's Mons Vaticanus and the nearby former Vatican Fields. Within this territory lies St. Peter's Basilica, the famous Sistine Chapel, museums and other buildings. Comprising nearly half of the territory of the city is the gardens, which were established during the Renaissance and Baroque era and contain fountains and sculptures.

The art and architecture

The city-state has within its boundaries many of the most well-known artwork and architecture on the planet. For example, the Basilica at Saint Peter's is a renowned showcase of Renaissance architecture and architects. Within its walls it contains the work of Michelangelo, Bernini, Giacomo della Porta and others.

The paintings and frescos found within the Sistine Chapel are also well-known. The Chapel contains works by Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and other painters. It also contains Michelangelo's well-known ceiling and his The Last Judgment fresco.

Artisans who have decorated the interiors of the state's buildings include Fra Angelico and Raphael. The Library and the Museums found in the city are consider to be of the highest value and importance.

Interesting facts

The Vatican controls its own Internet Top Level Domain, which is registered as .va. Popular TLDs in the world include .com (commercial), .net (network) and .org (non-profit organization).

The Institute for Works of Religion, also known as the Vatican Bank, is a bank that conducts worldwide financial activities. It has an ATM with instructions in Latin, possibly the only one of its kind in the entire world!

In 2012 the U.S. State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report listed Vatican City, for the first time, among the nations of concern for money-laundering

Additional Study Materials
Who or what started Rome?
Map of Roman Empire at its height
Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel
Rise and fall of Roman Empire Map
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