Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 



 


 



United Nations General Assembly hall

 

 


Vatican City
 

 

Profile
Official name(s) State of the Vatican City; Stato della Città del Vaticano (Italian)
Form of government Papacy

Main
ecclesiastical state, Europe
in full State of the Vatican City, Italian Stato della Città del Vaticano

ecclesiastical state, seat of the Roman Catholic church, and an enclave in Rome, situated on the west bank of the Tiber River. Vatican City is the world’s smallest fully independent nation-state. Its medieval and Renaissance walls form its boundaries except on the southeast at St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro). Of the six entrances, only three—the piazza, the Arco delle Campane (Arch of the Bells) in the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the entrance to the Vatican Museums and Galleries in the north wall—are open to the public. The most imposing building is St. Peter’s Basilica, built during the 4th century and rebuilt during the 16th century. Erected over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, it is the second largest religious building (after Yamoussoukro Basilica) in Christendom.

The Vatican palace is the residence of the pope within the city walls. The Holy See is the name given to the government of the Roman Catholic church, which is led by the pope as the bishop of Rome. As such, the Holy See’s authority extends over Catholics throughout the world. Since 1929 it has resided in Vatican City, which was established as an independent state to enable the pope to exercise his universal authority.

Vatican City has its own telephone system, post office, gardens, astronomical observatory, radio station, banking system, and pharmacy, as well as a contingent of Swiss Guards responsible for the personal safety of the pope since 1506. Almost all supplies—including food, water, electricity, and gas—must be imported. There is no income tax and no restriction on the import or export of funds. As the Holy See, it derives its income from the voluntary contributions of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide, as well as interest on investments and the sale of stamps, coins, and publications. Banking operations and expenditures have been reported publicly since the early 1980s.

During the period from the 4th century to 1870, the Vatican gained control of territory around Rome and served as capital of the Papal States. In 1929 Vatican City’s independent sovereignty was recognized by the Fascist Italian government in the Lateran Treaty. Sovereignty is exercised by the pope upon his election as the head of the Roman Catholic church. He has absolute executive, legislative, and judicial powers within the city. In 1984 a major reshuffle of offices in the Roman Curia resulted in the delegation of the routine administration of Vatican City to a pontifically appointed commission of five cardinals headed by the Secretariat of State. The inhabitants of Vatican City, the majority of whom are priests and nuns, also include several hundred laypersons engaged in secretarial, domestic, trade, and service occupations.

Special extraterritorial privileges are extended to more than 10 other buildings in Rome and to Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence in the Alban Hills. In addition, Vatican City maintains embassies in numerous foreign nations.

Vatican cultural life has much declined since the Renaissance, when the popes were among Italy’s foremost patrons of the arts. The Vatican Museums and Galleries, the frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, the frescoes by Pinturicchio in the Borgia Apartment, and Raphael’s Stanze (“Rooms”) nevertheless attract critics, artists, and flocks of tourists from throughout the world. Years of restoration work on the Sistine Chapel frescoes were completed in 1994, making it possible to view Michelangelo’s work in full vibrant colours. In 2000 the millennial Jubilee focused world attention on Vatican City.

The Vatican Apostolic Library contains a priceless collection of some 150,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million printed books, many from pre-Christian and early Christian times. The Vatican publishes its own influential daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and its press can print books and pamphlets in any of 30 languages, from old Ecclesiastical Georgian to Indian Tamil. Since 1983 the Vatican has produced its own television programming. Its radio broadcasts are heard in some 40 languages in many parts of the world. Vatican City was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

 


St. Peter's Square and the obelisk, from Piazza Pio XII

 

Vatican City /ˈvætɪkən ˈsɪti/ (help·info), officially the State of the Vatican City (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano, Italian pronunciation: [ˈsta(ː)to della tʃitˈta del vatiˈka(ː)no]), is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, the capital city of Italy. At approximately 44 hectares (110 acres) (0.44 km2), and with a population of over 800, it is the smallest country in the world by area.

Vatican City is a city-state that came into existence in 1929. It is distinct from the Holy See, which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.142 billion Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic adherents from around the globe. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin. The two entities even have distinct passports: the Holy See, not being a country, only issues diplomatic and service passports; the state of Vatican City issues normal passports. In both cases the passports issued are very few.

The Lateran Treaty in 1929, which brought the city-state into existence, spoke of it as a new creation (Preamble and Article III), not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756-1870) that had previously encompassed central Italy. Most of this territory was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, and the final portion, namely the city of Rome with a small area close to it, ten years later, in 1870.

Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the bishop of Rome—the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergymen of various racial, ethnic and national backgrounds. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Pope's residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace.

The Popes have resided in the area that in 1929 became Vatican City since the return from Avignon in 1377. Previously, they resided in the Lateran Palace on the Caelian Hill on the opposite side of Rome, which site Constantine gave to Pope Miltiades in 313. The signing of the agreements that established the new state took place in the latter building, giving rise to the name of Lateran Pacts, by which they are known.

The name "Vatican" is ancient and predates Christianity, coming from the Latin Mons Vaticanus, meaning Vatican Mount. The territory of Vatican City is part of the Mons Vaticanus, and of the adjacent former Vatican Fields where St. Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and museums were built, along with various other buildings. The area was part of the Roman rione of Borgo until 1929. Being separated from the city, on the west bank of the Tiber river, the area was an outcrop of the city that was protected by being included within the walls of Leo IV, and later expanded by the current fortification walls of Paul III/Pius IV/Urban VIII. When the Lateran Treaty of 1929 that gave the state its present form was being prepared, the boundaries of the proposed territory was influenced by the fact that much of it was all but enclosed by this loop. For some tracts of the frontier, there was no wall, but the line of certain buildings supplied part of the boundary, and for a small part of the frontier a modern wall was constructed. The territory includes St. Peter's Square, distinguished from the territory of Italy only by a white line along the limit of the square, where it touches Piazza Pio XII. St. Peter's Square is reached through the Via della Conciliazione which runs from the Tiber River to St. Peter's. This grand approach was constructed by Benito Mussolini after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty.

According to the Lateran Treaty, certain properties of the Holy See that are located in Italian territory, most notably Castel Gandolfo and the major basilicas, enjoy extraterritorial status similar to that of foreign embassies. These properties, scattered all over Rome and Italy, house essential offices and institutions necessary to the character and mission of the Holy See.

Castel Gandolfo and the named basilicas are patrolled internally by police agents of Vatican City State and not by Italian police. St. Peter's Square is ordinarily policed jointly by both.

In this originally uninhabited area (the ager vaticanus) on the opposite side of the Tiber from the city of Rome, Agrippina the Elder (14 BC – 18 October AD 33) drained the hill and environs and built her gardens in the early 1st century AD. Emperor Caligula (37-41) started construction of a circus (40) that was later completed by Nero, the Circus Gaii et Neronis, usually called, simply, the Circus of Nero. The Vatican obelisk was originally taken by Caligula from Heliopolis, Egypt to decorate the spina of his circus and is thus its last visible remnant. This area became the site of martyrdom of many Christians after the great fire of Rome in 64. Ancient tradition holds that it was in this circus that Saint Peter was crucified upside down. Opposite the circus was a cemetery separated by the Via Cornelia. Funeral monuments and mausoleums and small tombs as well as altars to pagan gods of all kinds of polytheistic religions were constructed lasting until before the construction of the Constantinian Basilica of St. Peter's in the first half of the 4th century. Remains of this ancient necropolis were brought to light sporadically during renovations by various popes throughout the centuries increasing in frequency during the Renaissance until it was systematically excavated by orders of Pope Pius XII from 1939 to 1941.

In 326, the first church, the Constantinian basilica, was built over the site that early Roman Catholic apologists (from the first century on) as well as noted Italian archaeologists argue was the tomb of Saint Peter, buried in a common cemetery on the spot. From then on the area started to become more populated, but mostly only by dwelling houses connected with the activity of St. Peter's. A palace was constructed near the site of the basilica as early as the 5th century during the pontificate of Pope Symmachus (pope 498-514).


Popes in their secular role gradually came to govern neighbouring regions and, through the Papal States, ruled a large portion of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when all of the territory of the Papal States was seized by the newly created Kingdom of Italy. For much of this time the Vatican was not the habitual residence of the Popes, but rather the Lateran Palace, and in recent centuries, the Quirinal Palace, while the residence from 1309-1377 was at Avignon in France.

In 1870, the Pope's holdings were left in an uncertain situation when Rome itself was annexed by the Piedmont-led forces which had united the rest of Italy, after a nominal resistance by the papal forces. Between 1861 and 1929 the status of the Pope was referred to as the "Roman Question". They were undisturbed in their palace, and given certain recognitions by the Law of Guarantees, including the right to send and receive ambassadors. But they did not recognize the Italian king's right to rule in Rome, and they refused to leave the Vatican compound until the dispute was resolved in 1929. Other states continued to maintain international recognition of the Holy See as a sovereign entity. In practice Italy made no attempt to interfere with the Holy See within the Vatican walls. However, they confiscated church property in many other places, including, perhaps most notably, the Quirinal Palace, formerly the pope's official residence. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878), the last ruler of the Papal States, claimed that after Rome was annexed he was a "Prisoner in the Vatican". This situation was resolved on 11 February 1929 between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy.

The treaty was signed by Benito Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III and by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri for Pope Pius XI. The Lateran Treaty and the Concordat established the independent State of the Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a new concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain provisions of the earlier treaty, including the position of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.

 

 

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