Discover the Wonders of Vatican City -
the State within a City
This is probably one of the most well-known places in the world. It is the heart of Catholicism and covers the Vatican City state. The tiniest city in the world, it houses more significant history and works of art than anywhere else in the world. Sometimes referred to as the Holy See, it is the official residence of the Pope, head of the Catholic Church. Tourists travel to this part of the world to experience the grandeur of this tiny piece of land and explore the birth of Christian civilization.
Vatican City is located at the exact location where Saint Peter was martyred some 2000 years ago. This is also the burial ground of the saint and it has always been regarded as a significant spot for the Papal State. Before 1860 a big part of Central Italy was ruled by the Papal States. It was the Pope who was considered to be the ultimate authority. Their empire was guarded and fortified by hired mercenaries and armies gathered from different parts of the world.
But by the year 1860, the power of the Papal State slowly waned. Most of its states were integrated into the Kingdom of Italy. Rome was the last state to yield in 1870. The Lateran Treaty signed in 1929 allowed the formation of the State of the Vatican City. From then on, the smallest state in the world is presided over by the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
The ground that the Vatican City was built on was originally the location of the Circus Maximus during the time of Roman Emperor Nero. The obelisk, which is still standing up until today and a famous landmark of the Vatican City, is the only remnant of the ancient structure. The obelisk is not a Roman structure since it was only taken from Heliopolis by Roman Emperor Caligula. The Circus of Emperor Nero is notoriously known to be the site where many Christians perished. According to many sources, Saint Peter was crucified in this exact spot upside down.
It was Emperor Constantine who finally embraced and recognized Christianity in 326 AD. He erected a Basilica over the saint's tomb. Pope Pius ordered the site to be excavated to find out if Saint Peter's tomb can really be found here. When the Basilica was completed, other buildings were built nearby to engage in religious activities.
The power of the Pope and the Catholic Church shifted when Rome capitulated to Italy in 1870. Although the works of the Pope were recognized and the Catholic Church was left to perform its duties, they felt imprisoned. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 gave the Vatican State its autonomy. It was an agreement established by Benito Mussolini, Pope Pius XI, and King Victor Emmanuel III.
Main Tourist Attractions
Vatican City is synonymous to Catholicism and art. For the art connoisseurs, the Vatican City holds a collection of world-renowned sculptures, architecture, paintings, and a lot more. Many Popes in the past often commissioned great Renaissance artists to do artworks and Vatican City owns some of the most popular works from the greatest artists like Raphael and Michelangelo. Although there are many areas that are restricted to tourists, a visit to the Vatican City will take you to some amazing treasures and historical sites.
The Saint Peter's Basilica is a huge architectural structure that was erected over Saint Peter's grave. It is flooded with arts from geniuses like Bramante, Bernini, Maderno, and other Renaissance artists. There, you will see stretches of marbles, wonderful mosaics, and Michelangelo's masterpiece which makes the basilica one of the world's greatest structures. The Sistine Chapel is another popular attraction in Vatican City. The frescoed ceiling was created by Michelangelo and it depicts a story that unfolded in the Book of Genesis. The restoration has brought back the vibrant color of the chapel's frescoes.
The Castel Sant'Angelo was created as a burial chamber for Emperor Hadrian. Later, it was used as a haven for Popes and a secret passage links it directly to the Vatican City. Other sites to visit are the Courtyard of the Pigna which was designed by Bramante. There, you can gaze at some great sculptures and take in the sprawling green lawn. The Museum is another site that should not be missed when visiting Vatican City. From priceless paintings, sculptures, icons, to artifacts, some of the greatest masterpieces from some of the greatest artists can be found here.
Uniqueness of the Country
Vatican City is perhaps one of the most unique countries in the world because not only it is the smallest state but its affinity to religion and art sets it apart. Their government system and financial affairs are not run in a traditional way. Their economic structure does not follow a conventional system therefore it cannot be described by discussing the sectors found in a traditional government system. Additionally, every corner of the city is distinguished by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Even though Vatican City is recognized as a country with its own government, it does not occupy a seat in the United Nations. However, the residents here can truly say that their existence is unlike any other. What keeps the peace in Vatican City is an army of hired mercenaries, imported from Switzerland. Latin language is still used here and the Pope enjoys his own train station. A post office also exists within the Vatican City walls.
Vatican City's celebration of Christmas is very grand and symbolical. A mass is held on Christmas Eve officiated by the Pope himself. The festivals that are held in it are celebrated with the goal to observe the Catholic faith and its saints. They also commemorate arts and music and any profit earned from the events is donated to charities supporting arts.
Easter's celebration in Vatican City starts with an assembly held on Good Friday. Visitors are greeted with a huge cross that is circled with torches. The Stations of the Cross are broadcast in different languages so that everybody gets the chance to understand what is being said. Visitors also wait for the chance to be blessed by the Pope after the recitation.
Respecting the elderly is valued within Vatican City. Respect is a virtue that is seriously observed within these walls. The people are warm and welcoming of visitors. When eating, it is considered rude to hide your hands under the table. The culture of the Vatican City has much to do with the church as to be expected.