Interesting Facts About Vatican City
The Vatican serves as the seat of power for the Catholic Church. Every year, millions of visitors pack a tiny area less than the size of most cities, let alone countries, to experience the art, history, and religious resonance of one of the most culturally significant places on Earth. Here, you’ll find some of the oldest religious structures and most storied artistic and architectural sites in Europe.
Even so, Vatican City is also notable for being an extraordinary outlier so far as other countries are concerned. With a regular population far less than the size of many cities and lacking many of the most common distinguishing traits of other countries, such as a military or a native population, the history, status, and sites to be seen around Vatican City are interesting to say the least.
Facts On Vatican City #1
It Is The Smallest Country In The World
The area of the country is only 0.44 square kilometers. You can walk around the whole Vatican in less than 1 hour.
For comparison’s sake, Monaco, another microscopic European nation, is still more than four times the size of Vatican City at 2km. You can quite literally walk around the whole country and still have time before heading to Rome for a night on the town.
That’s good because given its role as the seat of the Catholic Church, you naturally won’t find many pubs or nightclubs within the boundaries of the city-state. That being said, it isn’t as though the Vatican economy is hurting for money. It is, after all, home to some of the most famous sites in the world. Tourism is thus one of the biggest driving forces of the local economy.
Interesting Facts About Vatican City #2
It Is The Country Within The City
If you’ve booked a flight to Rome expecting to find sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, and the Sistine Chapel, you’re half right. While these sites were for centuries located in Rome and are still located within the boundaries of the city, today they are technically within the boundaries of Vatican City.
Vatican City is likely the only nation on Earth to have neither a hospital nor a prison. It is so small that, despite the Catholic Church’s vast international influence, it does not host any embassies on its soil. On the other hand, the smallest country by both size and population nevertheless boasts many of the trappings you’d expect from a modern nation, including its own passports, post office, telephone system, national anthem, license plates, Internet domain, flag and, perhaps most surprising of all, a national football team.
Fun Facts About Vatican City #3
The Vatican City Is A Hill Surrounded By A Wall
Walls encircling cities are one thing, but what about walls surrounding an entire nation? That’s the case with Vatican City, as a wall rings the entire 110-acre country. The wall makes Vatican City the only country in the world to have a wall around most of its territory.
However, lest you think these walls are meant as a hard border, think again. Not only are the walls centuries old with many openings in them, but anyone can stroll past them into and out of Vatican City.
Fun Vatican Facts #4
Vatican’s Population Is The Smallest In The World
Without question, Vatican City has one of the most unique populations and citizenship situations of any country on Earth.
For one thing, Vatican City has no native population, as all citizens of Vatican City are “immigrants” insofar as they are appointed and approved by the Pope to live and work in the city. If those workers stop working for the city, they lose their citizenship.
Vatican City thus has the smallest population of any nation on Earth, with the typical number usually hovering somewhere around a thousand people, with only a few dozen of them ever being women. This is by far the biggest disparity in a male/female population of any nation.
Unsurprisingly, Vatican City is 100% Catholic, the only country on Earth to have the entire country belong to a single religion. Due to the Catholic Church’s aversion to divorce, Vatican City one of two nations on Earth (the other being the Philippines) to not have laws regarding or allowing for divorce.
Interesting Facts About Vatican City #5
Vatican City Is Also Called The Holy See
If you are Catholic or have insight into global geopolitical and religious affairs, you may know that the Catholic Church is represented in the United Nations not as “Vatican City” but as the “Holy See.” The two are distinct, albeit highly intertwined, entities. Vatican City is the actual nation while the Holy See acts as the legal entity controlling much of the Catholic Church worldwide. What’s more, while popes come and go, the Holy See as a conceptual entity is “eternal.”
Vatican license plates of cars are marked with letters SVC- “Stato Citta Vaticano”.
It means “The State – Vatican City”. Malicious read it as “Se Vedesse Christo,” means “If only Christ could see this.”
Fun Facts About Vatican City #6
Vatican Has The Biggest Library In The World
The Vatican is home to the biggest library in the world in terms of books collected, with over 1.1 million texts in its collections, with around 6,000 new acquisitions being added each year. It is one of the largest collections of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew texts in the world. The Vatican Library contains texts on everything from the classics to religion and philosophy, with the oldest texts dating back to the first century.
Vatican City Facts #7
The City Of Wine
Wine features prominently throughout the Bible, Catholic tradition, and Italian culture, and so it should come as no surprise that Vatican City is one of the biggest consumers of wine per capita in the world. They ranked second in bottles per capita in 2017 with each Vatican City citizen consuming an average of 76 bottles in that year.
Facts On Vatican City #8
Swiss Guards Actually Consist Of The Swiss Citizens
The other of our interesting facts about Vatican City centers on the select few responsible for guarding it.
As stated, Vatican City is without a standing army. However, that doesn’t mean that it is missing a guardian force altogether. On the contrary, Vatican City is home to one of the oldest guard units in Europe. For centuries, Swiss guards, originally hired as mercenaries, have guarded the Pope and the site of what is now Vatican City. Along with the Pope, Catholic leaders, and stunning architecture, these Swiss guards, immediately identifiable by their famous multicolored striped uniforms, rank among Vatican City’s most easily recognizable features.
With a history as long, complex, and colorful as any city or country and because it is home to some of the holiest sites and most magnificent examples of art and architecture on Earth, Vatican City receives countless visitors every year. When in Rome, do as the Romans do and take a Sunday off to cross into one of the most unique places in history.
Not everyone can join the Swiss Guards. They accept only men between 19 and 30 years old and at least 174 cm (5 ft 8.5 in) tall. They need to be Christians who completed basic military training.
Interesting Facts About Vatican City #9
It Is The Most Militarized Country In The World
10% of the Vatican population are soldiers. Of the nearly 900 citizens, there are about 100 soldiers of the Swiss Guard.
Their main task is to protect the Pope.
What’s interesting, the city has one of the highest crime rates in the world.
Vatican city has less than 1000 citizens. However, every year about 7 million tourists come here. That is why the crime rate per capita is so high.
Fun Vatican Facts #10
Pope Is The King of Vatican City
Vatican City is ruled by the King of Vatican City, known to the rest of us as the Pope. This dual role results from the Pope’s dual role as head of state and religion. It also means that Vatican City ranks alongside Saudi Arabia and Brunei as one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world. This is also why it cannot join the European Union; they only allow democracies.
Nevertheless, you won’t need to worry about going through currency exchange on your trip through this Roman enclave-turned-country as Vatican City has a special opt-in that allows it to use Euros despite not technically being part of the European Union.
Interesting Facts About Vatican City #11
The first Non-Italian Pope Since the XVI Century Was John Paul II
One of the perks of being a world leader is getting to travel, and popes are among the most well-traveled leaders out there. Topping the list of globe-trotting popes is John Paul II, who in his reign didn’t just become the most well-traveled pope, but also the most well-traveled world leader in history. Over the course of his reign, John Paul II visited a staggering 129 countries, more than any other world leader in history. This came over the course of 104 official papal visits spanning four decades, from the beginning of his reign in 1979 until his death in 2005. Over the course of his reign, he logged an astonishing 1,167,00km traveled, more than any other leader in world history.
Some of the most notable of those trips include the following:
- His first trip as pope to the Dominican Republican in 1979
- A trip to Ireland that same year, which drew one-third of the total population of the Republic of Ireland and one-third of that of the whole Island, including Northern Ireland
- Nine total visits to his native Poland
- Eight total trips to France, several for beatifications
- Seven total trips to the United States, including two visits to the United Nations and the first-ever papal visit to the White House
- The first papal visit to the United Kingdom since Henry VIII split from the Church
- The first papal visit to a mosque in Syria in 2001
- The first papal visits to places such as Guam, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Canada, and Romania, and the first modern papal visits to Egypt and Greece
John Paul II also helped to end the Communism in Europe and improved the Catholic Church’s relations with other religions (Islam, Judaism, etc.)
He also officially apologized for over 100 wrongdoings made by the Catholic Church through the years.
Vatican City Facts #12
Vatican’s Buildings Are Pretty Interesting
Apostolic Palace has more than 1,400 rooms!
It’s really huge. The most famous room in the Apostolic Palace is the Sistine Chapel.
St Peter’s Basilica has an area of 40,000 square meters. It’s enormous. It is more than the area of six football fields.