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Vatican City Travel Guide:

            Facts on the Vatican/Holy See

Flag of Vatican City
History   Geography    People    Economy    Communications    Transportation

Map of The Vatican

Map of  Vatican City in Rome, Italy

History   Top of Page
  The Holy See's diplomatic history began in the fourth century, but the boundaries of the papacy's temporal power have shifted over the centuries. From the 8th century through the middle of the 19th century, the Popes held sway over the Papal States, which included a broad band of territory across central Italy. In 1860, after prolonged civil and regional unrest, Victor Emmanuel's army seized the Papal States, leaving only Rome and surrounding coastal regions under papal control.

In 1870, Victor Emmanuel captured Rome itself and declared it the new capital of Italy, ending papal claims to temporal power. Pope Pius IX and his successors disputed the legitimacy of these acts and proclaimed themselves to be "prisoners" in the Vatican. Finally, in 1929, the Italian Government and the Holy See signed three agreements resolving the dispute:

A treaty recognizing the independence and sovereignty of the Holy See and creating the State of the Vatican City;

A concordat defining the relations between the government and the church within Italy; and

A financial convention providing the Holy See with compensation for its losses in 1870.

In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion. Present concerns of the Holy See include  inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About 1 billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.

Almost all of Vatican City's citizens live inside the Vatican's walls. The Vatican includes high-ranking dignitaries, priests, nuns, and guards as well as about 3,000 lay workers who comprise the majority of the work force.

The Pope exercises supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over the Holy See and the State of the Vatican City. Pope Benedict XVI, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, was elected and invested on April 19 and formally inaugurated on April 24, 2005.

The term "Holy See" refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. As the "central government" of the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See has a legal personality that allows it to enter into treaties as the juridical equal of a state and to send and receive diplomatic representatives. The Holy See has formal diplomatic relations with 177 nations and the Order of Malta, including the United States and some predominantly Muslim countries. The Holy See also maintains relations of a special nature with the Russian Federation and the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine.

Created in 1929 to provide a territorial identity for the Holy See in Rome, the State of Vatican City is a recognized national territory under international law. The Holy See enters into international agreements and receives and sends diplomatic representatives.

The Pope delegates the internal administration of the Vatican City to the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. Vatican City maintains the Swiss Guards, a voluntary military force, as well as a modern security corps. It has its own post office, commissary, bank, railway station, electrical generating plant, television center, and publishing house. The Vatican also issues its own coins and stamps and has its own Internet domain (.va). Vatican Radio, the official radio station, is one of the most influential in Europe. L'Osservatore Romano is the semi-official newspaper, published daily in Italian, and weekly in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French (plus a monthly edition in Polish). There is also a weekly version published in Italian, as well as a weekly version in Malayalam (a language of India), started on April 3, 2007.

Geography   Top of Page
Location Southern Europe, an enclave of Rome (Italy)  
Geographic Coordinates 41 54 N, 12 27 E  
Area total: 0.44 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 0.44 sq km 
Area - Comparative about 0.7 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC  
Land Boundaries total: 3.2 km
border countries: Italy 3.2 km
Coastline 0 km (landlocked)  
Climate temperate; mild, rainy winters (September to mid-May) with hot, dry summers (May to September)  
Terrain low hill  
Elevation Extremes lowest point: unnamed location 19 m
highest point: unnamed location 75 m
Natural Resources None  
Geography Note urban; landlocked; enclave in Rome, Italy; world's smallest state; outside the Vatican City, 13 buildings in Rome and Castel Gandolfo (the pope's summer residence) enjoy extraterritorial rights  
Natural hazards None  
People   Top of Page
Population 932 (July 2006 est.)  
Age Structure NA)  
Nationality noun: none
adjective: none
Ethnic Groups Italians, Swiss, and nationalities from around the world  
Religions Roman Catholic  
Language Italian, Latin, French, English and various other languages  
Literacy definition: NA
total population: 100%
Government   Top of Page
Country Name conventional long form: The Holy See (State of the Vatican City)
conventional short form: Holy See (Vatican City)
local short form: Santa Sede (Citta del Vaticano)
local long form: Santa Sede (Stato della Citta del Vaticano)
Government Type ecclesiastical  
Capital Vatican City  
Administrative Divisions None  
Independence 11 February 1929 (from Italy)
note: on 11 February 1929, three treaties were signed with Italy which, among other things, recognized the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent; however, the origin of the Papal States, which over the years have varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to the 8th century
Flag Description two vertical bands of yellow (hoist side) and white with the crossed keys of Saint Peter and the papal miter centered in the white band  
Economy   Top of Page
Overview The Vatican City has a unique, noncommercial economy supported financially by an annual tax on Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the world, as well as by special collections (known as Peter's Pence); the sale of postage stamps, coins, medals, and tourist mementos; fees for admission to museums; and the sale of publications. Investments and real estate income also account for a sizable portion of revenue. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome.  
Currency Euro  
Currency Code EUR  
Communications   Top of Page
Telephone System NA  
Internet Country Code .va  
Transportation   Top of Page
Railways total: 0.86 km
standard gauge: 0.86 km 1.435-m gauge
note: a spur of the Italian Railways system, serving Rome's Saint Peter's station (2001 est.)
Roadways none; all city streets  
Waterways None  
Ports and Harbors None  
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