Saturday, 18 February 2012 15:53

What is the Vatican ?


What and where is the Vatican is a question that we have been asked so many times that we thought would be useful to answer it in our Roman blog. The Vatican City or State of the Vatican City is an independent sovereign state, the smallest in the world by territory and population. It has a population of 800 people and covers an area of about 44 hectares (110 acres). It is located within the metropolitan area of Rome, Italy.  


The Vatican City State is an absolute ecclesiastical monarchy ruled by the Pope and is considered being constitued by the Lateran Treaty signed in 1929 between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy. The Vatican City is the sovereign territory and place of residence of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) which is a different entity.


The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction and governing body of the Catholic Church and it dates back to the Early Christians time.  The Holy See is not a country but is considered a sovereign entity and issues diplomatic passports. Its acts are written in Latin while the Vatican City State uses the Italian language.


The modern State of Vatican City originated from the former Papal States (or Popedom, or State of the Church). The Catholic Church was for the first three centuries of existence an outlawed organization in the Roman Empire until the Edict of Milan signed in 313 by Emperor Constantine I. In the centuries following the fall of the Western Roman Empire the Church gained progressively more power and the seeds of the Papal States as a sovereign political entity were planted in the sixth and seventh century.


The Papal States remained a political power until 1870 when the army of the Kingdom of Italy entered the city of Rome and confined the Pope in the Vatican. In 1929 the Lateran Pacts solved the so called Roman Question: the Vatican recognized Italian sovereignty over the former Papal States and the Italian State acknowledged the papal sovereignty over the Vatican City.


If you are interested in discovering the Vatican read about our 

Vatican Tour 

The Vatican Flag


The Basilica of Saint Peter 

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