|Area||0.44 sq km (0.17 sq mi)|
|Population||836 (July 2012 est.)|
|National Day||11 February 1929|
As part of the Roman Empire, the Vatican was notable for its important location, just over the Tiber River from Rome, at the center of the empire. At times, the hill of the Vatican was considered a sacred land, as the site of a Phrygian shrine to Cybele and Attis and a cemetery, and at other times, holding the gardens of Agrippina the Elder in the 1st century AD. The Circus of Nero was constructed in this space beginning in AD 40, and the obelisk was brought during this time from Heliopolis, Egypt to decorate the circus.
By 64 AD, Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus had moved to Rome while spreading the gospel and was crucified upside down near the Egyptian obelisk. He was buried nearby and Old St. Peter's Basilica was built in his honor under the rule of Constantine in the 4th century and later a palace was constructed alongside the basilica.
Vatican Hill became a protected part of Rome around 850, but the basilica was not maintained. The plan to knock down and rebuilt the basilica was arranged by Pope Julius II in the 16th century, as part of his own burial plans. Successive popes continued the basilica's construction over 120 years, with contributions from Michelangelo and Bernini. The piazza outside the basilica was constructed beginning in 1656, incorporating the obelisk into its design.
When the Popes began living in Rome again in 1377, they had begun to reside at the Vatican, ruling over the Papal States. Upon unification of Italy in 1860, the issue of the Roman Question arose, with a dispute over the governance of the country between the Papacy and Italy. The question remained unanswered until 1929 with the Lateran Treaty, which acknowledged Papal control of Vatican City as an independent city-state.
Vatican City is an enclave entirely surrounded by Italy.
Vatican City is a city-state.
Vatican City is situated within the territory of Italy, and is completely landlocked. Set alongside the Italian capital, Rome, Vatican City is set upon Vatican Hill, though its elevation ranges from 19.2 meters (63 feet) and 76.2 meters (250 feet). The terrain of the territory is primarily urban, but the Vatican Gardens are well manicured lawns and foliage covering 57 acres. The tiny city-state is the smallest independent country in the world. Vatican City gets many of its resources from Italy, and does not have a river of its own, but the Tiber River is in close proximity to the Vatican.
Points of Interest
Vatican City is not entirely accessible to visitors, and many parts of the interior are guarded by the iconic Swiss Guards, donning colorful, striped uniforms and standing very still at each entrance. Visitors can enter St. Peter's Basilica, however, which is the main cathedral of the Catholic church. The enormous basilica is home to many important works of art and the tombs of many popes and other important historic figures. The Pope himself offers a blessing from the Vatican each Sunday, though he transfers to another location during the hot summers.
Visitors can pay to ascend the 323 steps up the basilica's dome for incredible views and a special look at the Vatican Gardens, which are only visible to the public this way, or via a special tour of the Gardens. The piazza outside the basilica is an attraction in its own right, as a historic and impressive sites, with the Egyptian obelisk, the fountain, and the many columns on each side of the basilica.
The Vatican Museums are the other main attraction in Vatican City, which houses some of the most famous art from the greatest artist in the world, including the Sistine Chapel.
Vatican does not have its own airport, but is easily accessible by Rome's main airports, Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) Airport and Ciampino International, both located just outside the city center. These airports are major travel hubs, serving destinations all over the world.
With a perimeter of just 3.2 kilometers (2 miles), Vatican City is easily walkable, and accessible via Rome's metro system along the A line, with its own stop called Ottaviano/S. Pietro/Musei Vaticani a short walk away. The public bus system is fairly simple to navigate and has stops not far from the Vatican entrance. Taxis are another option, but they are much more expensive than other options.
Last Updated : April 08, 2014