|Vatican City, independent
state, under the absolute authority of the pope of the Roman Catholic church.
It is an enclave within Rome, Italy, with an area of 44 hectares (109 acres).
The smallest independent country in the world, Vatican City was established
in 1929 under terms of the Lateran Treaty, concluded by the Italian government
and the papacy after many years of controversy. This treaty was superseded
in 1984 by a new concordat, which, like its predecessor, recognized the
full sovereignty of the Holy See (the jurisdiction of the pope) within the
state of Vatican City. For the history of the papal territories before 1929,
see Papal States.
Vatican City is situated on Vatican Hill in northwestern Rome, just west of the Tiber River. It is surrounded by medieval and Renaissance walls and has six gates. Many of the most renowned artists and architects of the Italian Renaissance were commissioned by popes to work on the Vatican's buildings. The most imposing and important edifice is Saint Peter's Basilica. Built for the most part between the 15th and 17th centuries, and designed by artists, including Bramante, Michelangelo, and Gianlorenzo Bernini, it is the world center of Roman Catholic worship. In front of the basilica is the great Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter's Square). The other major edifice is the Palace of the Vatican, also known as the Papal Palace. It is a complex of buildings that contains more than 1000 rooms and houses the papal apartments, the government offices of the Roman Catholic church, several chapels and museums, and a library. The most famous portions of the palace are the Sistine Chapel, with its great ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo (restored 1980-1990); and Raphael's Rooms, papal apartments with frescoes painted by the Italian artist Raphael. The Vatican's museums are outstanding and include the Gregorian Museum of Egyptian Art; the Gregorian Museum of Etruscan Art; the Pio Clementino Museum, with a superlative collection of antiquities; the Chiaramonti Museum; and the Vatican Pinacoteca, with representative works by Italian masters. The Vatican Library has a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts and more than 1 million bound volumes. Also within the Vatican's walls are the Government Palace and the Vatican Gardens.
Government and Economy
Vatican City is governed by the pope, who has absolute executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The executive powers are delegated to a governor, who is responsible directly to the pope. In the exercise of his legislative powers, the pope is advised and assisted by the Sacred College of Cardinals and by the various Sacred Congregations. The judicial powers are exercised by tribunals; appeals from their decisions are heard by the sacred Roman Rota and by the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature. The Secretariat of State represents the Holy See in diplomatic relations with foreign powers. Swiss Guards maintain internal security and protection of the pope; the Piazza San Pietro is subject to the authority of the Italian police. Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace outside Rome, as well as other buildings located in Rome but outside of Vatican City, are endowed with extraterritoriality.
Vatican City has its own currency (equal to the Italian lira) and postal system. It also has a railroad station and radio station, and manages its own telephone and telegraph services. Annual expenditures in the late 1980s were $121.9 million. A daily newspaper and an official monthly journal are published, as are books and pamphlets in numerous languages. Population (1989 estimate) 755.