Within the historic city of Rome lies the smallest independent nation-state in the world, consisting of 110 acres and around 800 residents. Vatican City is governed by the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, which has full ownership, dominion, sovereign authority and jurisdiction over the state. The Holy See is mandated by the head of the Catholic Church, the pope who is also the Bishop of Rome and resides in the Vatican Palace.
The world’s smallest nation came into existence on February 11, 1929, when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and the Holy See signed the Lateran Treaty. The state has about 600 residents, the majority of which live abroad. Citizenship is only granted to “the Cardinals resident in the Vatican City State or in Rome, the Holy See’s diplomats and the people who reside in Vatican City State by reason of their office or service,” which includes members of the Swiss Guard who have been responsible for protecting the pope since 1506.
The economy of Vatican City is supported by the sale of postage stamps, souvenirs, fees for admissions into museums, and sales of publications. The state has its own telephone system, post office, astronomical observatory, radio station, newspaper, banking system and pharmacy. The Vatican City has embassies in numerous foreign nations and broadcasts their radio station around the world in 40 different languages.
The entire nation was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and features some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. There are many religious and cultural sites within the city, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. St. Peter’s Basilica, a spectacular church lined with golden trims, marble tiles and important sculptures, was built in the fourth century over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, then rebuilt in the 16th century. The Basilica is the second largest religious building of Christendom, after the Yamoussoukro Basilica in Ivory Coast. The Sistine Chapel, located in the Apostolic Palace, features the world-renowned Last Judgement ceiling fresco by Michaelangelo. In the Apostolic Palace also contains the Vatican Apostolic Library, which holds about 150,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million printed books from the pre-Christian and early Christian eras.
At the centre of St. Peter’s Square stands a 41 metre-high obelisk. The obelisk is made of a single piece of 350-ton red granite and was taken from Heliopolis, Egypt by the Roman Emperor Caligula in 1586. The obelisk was created for an Egyptian pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago in 37 AD. The whole of Vatican City is a truly, one-of-a-kind phenomenon operated by a single religious group that has created their own self-sustaining nation.