The Vatican is the smallest independent state in the world and residence of the spiritual leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
Its territory is surrounded by the Italian capital city Rome, and priests and nuns of many nationalities make up almost all of the population.
The Vatican City is a tiny fragment when compared with the extensive Papal States of central Italy, which were conquered by the forces of Italian unification in the mid-19th century. The popes then became “prisoners in the Vatican”, unwilling to leave the confines of the Apostolic Palace until 1929, when Italy’s Fascist government negotiated the Lateran Treaty that created the current mini-state.
The Vatican City itself packs many imposing buildings into its small area. These include St Peter’s Basilica, a pilgrimage site. The Vatican Museums and Art Galleries house the priceless art collections of the popes.
On a more profane level, the Vatican has moved to meet international demands for more financial transparency following an investigation in 2010 into the Vatican Bank over violations of money-laundering rules.
- State of the Vatican City
- Capital: Vatican City
- Population about 800
- Area 0.44 sq km (0.17 sq mile)
- Major languages Latin (official), Italian
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 74 years (men), 81 years (women)
- Currency euro