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Vatican City Is the World’s Smallest CountryVatican City, officially known as Vatican City State, is the world’s smallest recognized independent country. Vatican City facts show that the tiny country covers an area of just 110 acres. It is a half mile smaller than Monaco and sits within the city boundaries of Rome, Italy. Vatican City has a population of just 842 people. That’s smaller than the population of some high schools!
The Pope Rules Over Vatican City
Vatican City facts inform us that the country is a sacerdotal monarchy. That means the ruler of the country is the head of a religion. Vatican City is a Catholic country ruled by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope.
Whereas most monarchies follow a patriarchal or matriarchal lineage, Vatican City’s sacerdotal monarchy is led by an elected cardinal of the Catholic church, who then traditionally leads the country and the church until his death.
The Election of the Pope Takes Place in Vatican City
The pope is elected through a Papal conclave in Vatican City upon the death, or as happened most recently, the resignation, of the current Pope. In order to vote, 120 Cardinals under the age of 80 gather in the Sistine Chapel. The Cardinals go through a series of votes to elect one of their number as the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope. In order to be elected Pope, one needs a two-thirds majority vote.
Vatican City Is Mostly Inhabited by ClergyVatican City facts tell us that most of the population of this tiny state are clergy members serving the Holy See. There are also some officials of state, and the Swiss Guard. Everyone that lives within Vatican City is Catholic, and there are only Catholic churches within its borders.
While only 842 people live within the Vatican City walls, approximately 2,400 people commute into Vatican City to work.
Vatican City Has No GDP
When looking at the prosperity of a country and its citizens, we often look at gross domestic product as an indicator. Surprisingly, Vatican City has no GDP as it does not produce items and trade as other countries do.
The Pope Governs the Holy See from Vatican City
The Holy See is the diocese of Rome which is led by the Bishop of Rome, or the Pope. The Holy See is viewed as similar to a sovereign state in that it has diplomatic relations and a government. The Holy See sets the tone for the rest of the Catholic Church and is governed from Vatican City.
Vatican City Houses Famous Art and CathedralsVatican City attractions include the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Sistine Chapel features the beautiful ceiling painted by Michelangelo, as well as one of his most famous paintings, The Last Supper. The Vatican Apostolic Library and Vatican museums also bring visitors to the tiny country.
Vatican City Is the Only Country Designated a World Heritage Site
Vatican City facts indicate the small state is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It has the distinction of being the only sovereign state on the list. Most places on the list are historical sites, not entire countries!
Vatican City Supports Itself Through Tourism and Donations
Vatican City has no GDP. It relies on revenue from tourism and the sale of trinkets, as well as donations to the church, for income. In addition, Italians can choose to have the money they would normally pay in taxes go to the Vatican instead.
Vatican City Was Founded in 1929
Vatican City facts tell us that the small country came into existence on February 11, 1929, thanks to the Lateran Treaty signed by Benito Mussolini, then Prime Minister and Head of Government, on the behalf of the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III. The Lateran Treaty put an end to papal governance of surrounding areas, and bequeathed the Vatican City territory to the Holy See.
Caligula Erected the Obelisk in St. Peter’s Square
Roman Emperor Caligula had his soldiers take an obelisk erected for an Egyptian pharaoh from Heliopolis. He wanted it to decorate his newly created circus. The obelisk is over 3,000 years old and is made from 350 tons of red granite. It was moved to its current location in St. Peter’s Square in 1586. Not just a giant monument to a forgotten pharaoh, the obelisk also serves as a sundial.
Pope John Paul II Suffered an Assassination Attempt in Vatican CityOn May 13, 1981, Mehmet Ali Ağca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. This was the first time someone had tried to assassinate a pope in modern times, and the first attempted assassination within Vatican City. Pope John Paul II was shot four times, but survived. Ağca was sentenced to life in prison. Pope John Paull II forgave him and pressed the Italian President for a pardon. Ağca was pardoned in June 2000 and deported to Turkey.
Murder Shocked Vatican City and The Swiss Guard
On May 4, 1998, Alois Estermann, the commander of the Swiss Guard that serves as a protective force for the Pope, was murdered in Vatican City along with his wife, Gladys Meza Romero. Motives remain murky, but Cédric Tornay, a young Swiss Guard, was believed to have been the murderer. He committed suicide shortly thereafter. Some believe that the murder was the result of a love affair, though whether it was between the two men or between the wife and young guard is unclear.
Butler Sentenced for Leak of Vatican Documents
Known colloquially as the Vatileaks case, the leak of important Vatican documents in January 2012 brought to light possible financial corruption in Vatican City. Further inspection of the letters and documents showed blackmailing of homosexual clergy by laymen. Because of the secrecy of the Papacy and the government of Vatican City, the leak of the Vatican papers became a major news story.
Vatican City police arrested the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, after supposedly finding some incriminating documents in his Vatican apartment. Gabriele was found guilty on October 6, 2012, and pardoned on December 22, 2012.
Vatican City Mints Its Own Euros
Vatican City facts tell us that even though Vatican City is not a member of the European Union, its primary currency is the euro. Vatican City even mints its own euros. The current pope is depicted on the face of several euro coins.
Vatican City Has The Highest Crime Rate in The World
According to crime statistics, Vatican City is the country with the highest crime rate. Most of this is petty crime, like pickpocketing, that is perpetrated by people that don’t live in Vatican City. Because the crime rate figure is dependent on the number of citizens in a state, Vatican City, with its tiny population and high tourism, has risen to the top of the list.
St. Peter’s Basilica Sits On His Grave
Vatican City facts tell us that St. Peter’s Basilica is believed to be situated on top of St. Peter’s remains. Nero crucified many Christians, including St. Peter, and supposedly buried them on Vatican Hill, where the basilica was later built.
Cover Up For The Vatican Dress Code
If you’d like to visit the Sistine Chapel or St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, prepare to cover up. Vatican City facts tell us that in order to enter the holy places, you must be dressed modestly. One’s shoulders and knees must be covered, so it is advised you wear long pants and sleeved shirts. The Vatican museums do not require a dress code.
Vatican City Facts – Facts about Vatican City Summary
Vatican City is the world’s smallest sovereign state. It covers an area of just 110 acres, and has a population of 842. Vatican City is a sacerdotal monarchy that is headed by the Pope, who is also the head of the Holy See. Everyone living in Vatican City is Catholic. Attractions within Vatican City include the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Founded in 1929, Vatican City is a walled enclave within the Rome city limits. Surprisingly, this tiny state has the world’s highest crime rate.