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The Vatican City Facts: 20 Questions and Answers

Vatican City Facts

It's the smallest state in the world, it's citizen don't pay any taxes and only men govern it: the Vatican City. Located directly in Rome, it is the center of faith for over one billion Catholics all over the world. Although the country is very tiny, it exerts through his head, the Pope. The Vatican has it's own bank, stamped coins, stamps, Vatican tv channel, cars with own license plates and an own supermarket. Here are 20 interesting Vatican City facts.

Where is the Vatican?

vatican city

St. Peter's Basilica at night, CC Dennis Jarvis flickr

Vatican City is located on a hill within the city of Rome, Italy on the west bank of the Tiber river. The St. Peter's Basilica is the center of the state. On the north side are the Sistine Chapel and the palace, where the Pope lives and works. Vatican City also includes the St. Peter's Square, the Vatican Museums and numerous gardens and other places, all protected by high walls.

What is the Vatican?

Vatican City is an enclave which is completely surrounded by territory of the Republic of Italy.

Is Vatican City a Country?


When was the Vatican built?

Until the 4th century, the original seat of the Popes of the Catholic Church was the Lateran Palace. The name "Vatican" merely described the aforementioned hill near the riht bank of the Tiber river. The St. Peter's Basilica was built between 1506-1626. It took around 300 years more until the Vatican became a sovereign state in 1929.

How big is the Vatican City?

vatican city

St. Peter's Square, CC Mzximvs VdB flickr

44 hectare. Only half the size of  principality Monaco, which is the second smallest state in the world.

Who is the Head of State in Vatican City?

The Pope (currently Pope Francis) is not only head of the Catholic Curch, but also head of state in Vatican City.

How many official titles holds the Pope?

11. The Pope is:
  • Bishop of Rome.
  • Vicar of Jesus Christ.
  • Summus Pontifex of the universal church.
  • Sovereign of the State.
  • Archibishop and Metropilot of the Church Province of Rome.
  • Successor of the Apostle Princes (or Petri).
  • Primate of Italy.
  • Servant of all servants of God.

Who can become Pope?

pope francis

Pope Francis, CC Republic of Korea flickr

Accoding to Canon Law, every baptised, male, single Catholic over 35 can become Pope. Though, the last Pope, who was not a Cardinal was Urban VI. in 14th century. The Pope gets elected in the Conclave, a meeting of all Cardinals who are younger than 80 years old (115 in the last Conclave in 2013). The Conclave is held in the Sistine Chapel. The future Pope needs a two-third majority. If the Cardinals can't find a Pope after the 34th round, it comes to a runoff of the two Cardinals with the most votes. After each ballot, all notes get burned in two cast-iron stoves, which are installed in the chapel before the start of the Conclave. In one oven, which is used since 1939, the counted ballots get burned. In the second furnace, white or black smoke gets produced with chemicals. Rising black smoke means: no decision has been made. White smoke above the fireplace of the Sistine Chapel means, the Conclave elected a new Pope. No one in the world has the right to depose the Pope until his death.

sistine chapel

The Sistine Chapel, CC Jon Rawlinson flickr

What's the official language in Vatican City?

There are two: Italian and Latin. Even though the last one is a "dead" language, people consider it as the more important one. The Vatican (The Holy See = the Pope and the administrative institutions of the Roman Curia) always uses Latin, if he has to announce something very important.

What is St. Peter's Basilica?

st. peters basilica

St. Peter's Basilica, CC Mzximvs VdB flickr

St. Peter's Basilica is a tomb monument built on the grave from the poor fisherman from Galielee, who came to Rome and died as a martyr. The Sistine Chapel on the other hand is a church. Here, People can take a look at Micheangelos famous fresco's The Last Judgement. St. Peter's Square in front of the St. Peter's Basilica forms a sundial.

Who is approved to enter the Vaticans secret archive?

vatican secret archive

Hallway near the secret archive, CC Bryan Allison flickr

The secret archive of the Vatican stores documents from eight centuries. Everybody who wants to take a look at the documents needs a university degree and a recommendation by a University institution. Every researcher needs a unique topic to research about in the secret archive. Nobody is allowed to use a mobile or to take notes on the documents. They have to show respect for the santity of the place by wearing appropriate clothes. The secret archive inter alia contains writings from artist Micheangelo (1475-1564) and a document about an honor from the Pope for the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).

Has Vatican City his own currency?

Yes. Former, it was the Lira. Today, it's the Euro. But the Vatican only mints coins for collector's use, because they are depicted with the Pope. For normal use in shops, people pay with the Euro.

Is Vatican City part of the European Union?


Is Vatican City part of the UNO?

No, but it has an observatroy status. The Vatican stands above the other nations and it' s chief has a transnational position. It's influence is directed through various other countries according to the number of believers and their individual position in society and politics.

How can someone get Vatican citizenship?

Only Cardinals, Papal diplomats, employees of the Curia living in Vatican City, members of the Swiss Guard and children of employees in Vatican City (women only until they are married, men only until age 25) can acquire Vatican citizenship. Most employees lose their citizensip once their service ends.

What are the requirements to become a member of the Swiss Guard?

swiss guard

Swiss Guard, CC Alistair Young flickr

Founded in 1506 by Julius II., the Swiss Guard is the smallest and most exclusively army in the world. Their main job is to protect the institutions of the Vatican and the Pope. Persons, who want to become part of the 110 man strong armee need following prequisites:

  • Swiss citizenship.
  • Roman-Catholic.
  • High school graduation or completed apprenticeship.
  • Graduate of recuit school.
  • Not older than 30 year, male, single.

Official language of the Swiss Guard is German. The period of service takes an average of 2 years. After that, he can decide whether to become an officer. Officers are allowed to marry, but have to live with their families in Vatican City.

Is Pope Francis living in Vatican City?

If he is not on away on travel, yes. Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis is living in the guesthouse Santa Marta, right next to the Basilica. He is living in the suite 201, a four-room apartment on the second floor. The traditional Pope apartment in the Apostolic Palace high above St. Peter's Square is - according to Pope Francis - too big and faraway for him as he would rather be among the people. He only visits the Apostolic Palace for Angelus prayer on Sunday afternoon.

How much is the rent in Vatican City?

The rent in Vatican City is very low and is only around 4 % of the income. Most employees living in Vatican City (like for example the Swiss Guard) don't have to pay any rent at all.

Is the Vatican allowed to grant political asylum?

Yes. But if a person flees into the area behind the sacred walls and is guilty for a crime, which he commited on Italian territory, the state Vatican is forced to hand him over to the Italian authorities.

How is the Vatican generating money?

The Vatican lives mainly from donations from all over the world. However, it is also very rich in treasures. In addition, the Vatican also prints and shapes own stamps and coins, which get sold. Agriculture does not exist.
Featured image CC Carlo Mirante flickr
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