Vatican City the Last Papal State

By: Douglas Scott

Vatican City also incorrectly known as but popularly synonymous with the Holy See is the last Papal state in existence and the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church.

Situated within the city of Rome in Italy, the Vatican is the worlds smallest state.

Outside the Vatican City itself, 13 buildings in Rome and Castle Gandolfo, the Popes summer residence, also enjoy extraterritorial rights.

Vatican City occupies a triangular area on Vatican Hill in north western Rome, just west of the Tiber River. Except at Saint Peters Square on its southwest flank, Vatican City is surrounded by medieval and Renaissance walls that separate it from the city beyond. Within its walls is a vast complex of courtyards, gardens, and magnificent buildings, the largest and most imposing of which is the great domed Saint Peters Basilica the principal church of Roman Catholicism.

Vatican City has its own constitution, postal system, seal, flag, and other symbols of statehood. The Vatican also has its own army, the Swiss Guard, numbering about 100 soldiers. Vatican Radio is the official radio station and powerful transmitters beam the popes voice to a global audience. In 2001 Vatican City had an estimated population of 1000. Citizenship is gained by permanent residence in the Vatican together with the performance of special duties in the service of the Holy See.

Vatican City is the last remnant of the Papal States, a swath of territories in central Italy acquired over the centuries by the Catholic Church and governed by the pope. Vatican City was established in 1929 under terms of the Lateran Treaty, concluded by the Italian government and the papacy after many years of controversy. Under the treaty, the Catholic Church ceded all claims to the Papal States in return for financial compensation and sovereignty over the Holy See within the state of Vatican City.

The Vaticanas outstanding museums include the Gregorian Museum of Egyptian Art, the Gregorian Museum of Etruscan Art, the Pio Clementino Museum, with a superlative collection of antiquities, the Chiaramonti Museum; and the Vatican Pinacoteca, an art gallery with representative works by Italian masters. The Vatican Library has a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts and more than 1 million bound volumes. Also within the Vaticanas walls are the Government Palace and the Vatican Gardens.

Many of the most famous artists and architects of the Italian Renaissance were commissioned by popes to work on the Vaticanas buildings. The most important edifice is Saint Peteras Basilica, a cavernous structure topped by a large ribbed dome. Built largely between the 15th and 17th centuries, and designed by artists such as Bramante, Michelangelo and Gianlorenzo Bernini, it is the world centre of Roman Catholic worship.

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