Designed by Conquent

Vatician City

Officially State of the Vatican City (Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae; Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano), is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. At approximately 44 hectares (108.7 acres), it is the smallest independent nation in the world.

The Vatican City state was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756 to 1870). Vatican City is a non-hereditary, elected monarchy and is governed by the Pope, who also holds the title of Bishop of Rome. The highest-ranking state functionaries are all clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Apostolic Palace — the Pope's official residence — and the Roman Curia. Thus, while the principal ecclesiastical seat (Cathedral) of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, is located in Rome but outside of the Vatican walls, Vatican City can be said to be the governmental capital of the Catholic Church.

The name "Vatican" is ancient and predates Christianity, coming from the Latin Mons Vaticanus, Vatican Hill. The territory of Vatican City is part of the Mons Vaticanus, and of the adjacent former Vatican Fields where St. Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and museums were built, along with various other buildings. The area was part of the Roman rione of Borgo until 1929. Being separated from the city, on the west bank of the Tiber river, the area was an outcrop of the city that was protected by being included within the walls of Leo IV, and later expanded by the current fortification walls of Paul III/Pius IV/Urban VIII. When the Lateran Treaty of 1929 that gave the state its present form was being prepared, the boundaries of the proposed territory was influenced by the fact that much of it was all but enclosed by this loop. For some tracts of the frontier, there was no wall, but the line of certain buildings supplied part of the boundary, and for a small part of the frontier a modern wall was constructed. The territory included St. Peter's Square, which was not possible to isolate from the rest of Rome, and therefore a largely imaginary border with Italy runs along the outer limit of the square where it touches on Piazza Pio XII and Via Paolo VI. St. Peter's Square is reached through the Via della Conciliazione which runs from the Tiber River to St. Peter's. This grand approach was constructed by Mussolini after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty.

According to the Lateran Treaty, certain properties of the Holy See that are located in Italian territory, most notably Castel Gandolfo and the Patriarchal Basilicas, enjoy extraterritorial status similar to that of foreign embassies. These properties, scattered all over Rome and Italy, house essential offices and institutions necessary to the character and mission of the Holy See. Castel Gandolfo and the named basilicas are patrolled internally by police agents of the Vatican City State and not by Italian police. St. Peter's Square is ordinarily policed jointly by both.


The Vatican City State has the distinction of having the smallest and oldest regular army in the world, the Swiss Guard. It was founded by Pope Julius II on January 22, 1506, and originally made up of Swiss mercenaries from the Swiss Confederation. They currently number a little over 100 men and are also the personal bodyguards of the Pope. Recruitment is restricted to Catholic male Swiss citizens.

The Palatine Guard and the Noble Guard were disbanded during the reign of Pope Paul VI in 1970.

The Corpo della Gendarmeria acts as the internal police force. Its full name is Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano although it is sometimes still referred to as Vigilanza, which is a shortening of an earlier name.
The Vatican has no navy and no air force. External defense is handled by the surrounding state of Italy.

St. Peters Square

The Pope is ex officio head of state and head of government of Vatican City. He is simultaneously and primordially the bishop of the Diocese of Rome, and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. The term Holy See expresses the totality of his governance and pastoral ministry. His official title with regard to Vatican City is Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City.

St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Chair

Archway to the Vatican, Archway and dome.

Vatican Hallway

This ornate hallway leads from the central dome of St Peters Basilia.

View of the Square

Tile Mosiaque

Central Plaza

Bronze Sculpture


Swiss Guards

Mural of a Pope

Vatician Door