The world’s smallest country is the Vatican, also known as the Holy See. This country fits within the Italian capital city of Rome, and is the center of the Catholic Church. It is also home to the biggest church in the world – St. Peter’s Basilica, and holds some of the most significant art works of the Renaissance such as The Pieta and the Creation of Adam. Its income comes from the voluntary contributions of over 1 billion members of the Roman Catholic Church around the world. The remainder of its economy comes from the sales of postage stamps, tourist mementos, and admission fees of museums. With an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 Acres), and a population of 842, it is the smallest internationally recognized Independent state in the world by both are and P0pulation.
The name Vatican City
was first used in the Lateran Treaty
, signed on 11 February 1929, which established the modern city-state. The name is taken from Vatican Hill
, the geographic location of the state. “Vatican” is likely to derive from the name of an Etruscan
settlement, possibly called Vatica
, located in the general area the Romans called vaticanus ager
, “Vatican territory”.
The official Italian
name of the city is Città del Vaticano
or, more formally, Stato della Città del Vaticano
, meaning “Vatican City State”. Although the Holy See
(which is distinct from the Vatican City) and the Catholic Church use Ecclesiastical Latin
in official documents, the Vatican City officially uses Italian. The Latin name
is Status Civitatis Vaticanae
; this is used in official documents by not just the Holy See, but in most official Church and Papal
The name “Vatican” predates Christianity and comes from the Latin Mons Vaticanus
, meaning Vatican Mount.
The territory of Vatican City is part of the Mons Vaticanus
, and of the adjacent former Vatican Fields. It is in this territory that 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
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
(847–55), and later expanded by the current fortification walls, built under Paul III
(1534–49), Pius IV
(1559–65) and Urban VIII
When the Lateran Treaty
of 1929 that gave the state its form was being prepared, the boundaries of the proposed territory were 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 includes St. Peter’s Square
, distinguished from the territory of Italy only by a white line along the limit of the square, where it touches Piazza Pio XII. St. Peter’s Square is reached through the Via della Conciliazione
which runs from close to the Tiber River to St. Peter’s. This grand approach was constructed by Benito Mussolini
after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty.
Castel Gandolfo and the named basilicas are patrolled internally by police agents of Vatican City State
and not by Italian police
. According to the Lateran Treaty St. Peter’s Square, up to but not including the steps leading to the basilica, is normally patrolled by the Italian police.
There are no passport controls for visitors entering Vatican City from the surrounding Italian territory. There is free public access to Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica and, on the occasion of papal general audiences, to the hall in which they are held. For these audiences and for major ceremonies in Saint Peter’s Basilica and Square, tickets free of charge must be obtained beforehand. The Vatican Museums, incorporating the Sistine Chapel, usually charge an entrance fee. There is no general public access to the gardens, but guided tours for small groups can be arranged to the gardens and excavations under the basilica. Other places are open to only those individuals who have business to transact there.
Within the territory of Vatican City are the Vatican Gardens
(Italian: Giardini Vaticani
),which account for more than half of this territory. The gardens, established during theRenaissance
era, are decorated with fountains and sculptures.
The gardens cover approximately 23 hectares (57 acres) which is most of the Vatican Hill
. The highest point is 60 metres (200 ft) above mean sea level
. Stone walls bound the area in the North, South and West.
The gardens date back to medieval times when orchards and vineyards extended to the north of the Papal Apostolic Palace
In 1279 Pope Nicholas III
(Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277–1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace
and enclosed this area with walls He planted an orchard (pomerium)
, a lawn (pratellum)
and a garden (viridarium)
Population and languages
Almost all of Vatican City’s 558 (2005) citizens either live inside the Vatican’s walls or serve in the Holy See’s diplomatic service
in embassies (called “nunciatures
“; a papal ambassador is a “nuncio”) around the world. The Vatican citizenry consists almost entirely of two groups: clergy, most of whom work in the service of the Holy See, and a very few as officials of the state; and the Swiss Guard. Most of the 2,400 lay workers who comprise the majority of the Vatican workforce reside outside the Vatican and are citizens of Italy, while a few are citizens of other nations. As a result, all of the City’s actual citizens are Catholic as are all the places of worship
Vatican City has no formally enacted official language
, but, unlike the Holy See which most often uses Latin
for the authoritative version of its official documents, Vatican City uses only Italian in its legislation and official communications.
Italian is also the everyday language used by most of those who work in the state. In the Swiss Guard
, German is the language used for giving commands, but the individual guards take their oath of loyalty in their own languages: German, French, Romansh
or Italian. Vatican City’s official website languages are Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish. (This site should not be confused with that of the Holy See, which uses all these languages, along with Portuguese, with Latin since 9 May 2008 and Chinese since 18 March 2009.)