Nestled within the heart of Rome, Vatican City stands as a testament to centuries of rich history, profound spirituality, and artistic brilliance. As the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City is not only a revered pilgrimage site but also a sovereign state in its own right. Let’s delve into some fascinating facts about Vatican City, unveiling the mysteries of the smallest country in the world.
1. Smallest and less populous country in the world
Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world (internationally recognized), stretching on an area of about 44 hectares (110 acres). To put things into perspective, this tiny country is even a bit smaller than the Pentagon (60 hectares), which is the largest office building in the world. Vatican City has a wide variety of architectural marvels and historical sites despite its small size. With less than 1,000 inhabitants, mostly clergy, religious leaders, and Swiss Guards, it also holds the distinction of being the least populous nation on earth.
2. Independent and sovereign state
Being a city-state, Vatican City is an autonomous territory that has its own government and set of laws. The Lateran Treaty, which the Holy See and Italy signed in 1929, established its independence. The long-lasting Papal States, which had endured for more than a thousand years, were dissolved by this treaty.
3. Home of the Pope and heart of Catholicism
The Pope, who is the head of the Church and the spiritual leader of more than 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide, resides in Vatican City, the spiritual hub of the Roman Catholic Church. The largest cathedral in the world and a magnificent architectural work, St. Peter’s Basilica is situated inside the Vatican City. Numerous tourists are drawn to it to take in its breathtaking beauty and pay respect to the sacred significance it possesses.
4. The Sistine Chapel – where every new Pope is elected
The Sistine Chapel is one of Vatican City’s most well-known landmarks. The ceiling and frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, which were painted by the renowned artist Michelangelo, are an astounding example of human creative ability. The ceiling was finished by Michelangelo after four years of work, and it features scenes from the Book of Genesis, including the well-known creation of Adam. The entire altar wall is covered in an equally stunning fresco called The Last Judgement. To this day, The Sistine Chapel remains an active place of worship. It is also where papal conclaves are held to elect a new Pope, since 1846 when the location was changed from the Quirinal Palace.
5. Over 70,000 works of art stored in the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums in Vatican City are home to a sizable collection of works of art and historical artifacts – approximately 70,000 in total, including the ones in storage. In addition, more than 20,000 pieces of art are on display at any given time, which makes it one of the biggest museum complexes in the entire world. The collection spans across many centuries and features works of art including Raphael’s “The School of Athens” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “St. Jerome in the Wilderness.” Millions of people visit the Vatican Museums every year because they provide a fascinating trip through the most defining eras of humanity when it comes to art and history.
Read on to find out more about the art and architecture of the Vatican City.
6. Swiss Guards protect the Vatican and the Pope
The Swiss Guards’ impressive uniforms are associated with the Vatican City. The Apostolic Palace and the Pope are both under the protection of the Swiss Guards, who first came into being in 1506 for this purpose. They have established themselves as a recognizable representation of the Vatican and its past because to their distinctive Renaissance-style attire and halberds.
7. The stamps of Vatican – very sought over by collectors
The Vatican City has its own postal service and prints its own stamps. Vatican stamps frequently include religious art, major historical moments, or papal representations. These stamps are in great demand among collectors worldwide, making them prized philatelic artifacts.
Vatican City stands as a testament to the enduring power of faith, art, and culture. Despite its small size, it captivates visitors from around the globe, offering a unique blend of spiritual devotion and historical grandeur. As you explore the hidden treasures within Vatican City, let its profound history and unwavering spirituality inspire you to discover the wonders that lie beyond its borders.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in learning about the common myths and misconceptions about the Vatican.