The Vatican State is an enclave in the Italian capital of Rome. Less than 1000 people have citizenship of this country. The head of state - the Pope - is elected for life after a 1000-year rite, but the state has only existed since 1929. Because of its special features, the Vatican is the destination of thousands upon thousands of tourists every year. It is often Catholic Christians who visit the central place of their faith, but there are also other pilgrims on their way to the sites of early Christianity, or art lovers who want to admire the treasures in the museums of the mini-state.

With an area of 44 ha, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. The name Vatican derives from the word Vaticano, which describes a 75m high hill outside the historic center of Rome. On its south side was a circus where the apostle Peter died as a martyr. He was buried in the neighboring burial ground. Emperor Constantine had a five-aisled basilica built over his tomb, which was inaugurated in 326 and which developed into an important place of pilgrimage. However, not all visitors to the church came with peaceful intentions: after a Saracen attack on the holy sites of Rome in 846, Pope Leo IV had the Vatican Hill protected by the Leonine Wall. This included not only the then St. Peter's Basilica, but also the area of the Leostadt with the hostels for pilgrims. This was then regarded by the pilgrims as a castle, it roughly corresponds to the Roman Rione Borgo. At that time, the seat of the pope and the curia was still the Lateran, the popes only lived in the Vatican after the end of the Avignonese exile in the 14th century.

During the Renaissance, the popes completely redesigned their center of power on Vatican Hill. The Sistine Chapel was built between 1475 and 1483. In 1506 the foundation stone was laid for a new St. Peter's Basilica, which was consecrated in 1626. St. Peter's Square was completed in 1667.

With the capture of Rome in the course of Italy's national unification process, the original Papal States, which extended across large parts of central Italy, were destroyed in 1870. This led to the situation in which the Holy See had nunciatures (embassies) and diplomats, but no national territory. This Roman question strained the relationship between Italy and the Holy See for almost 6 decades. This only changed when the Lateran Treaties were signed on February 11, 1929 in the Palazzo San Giovanni in Laterano. The territory of the Vatican State was thus established and the relations between the two states were regulated. The reconciliation treaty was revised again in 1984.

The Vatican State thus became a sovereign state. Its head of state is the pope, elected for life, he is elected by cardinals, most of whom do not have the citizenship of this country. He is represented by international law by the "Holy See" and his messages are known as "Apostolic Nunciatures". Due to the Lateran Treaties, the papal basilicas of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni in Laterano in the city of Rome also enjoy extraterritorial rights, this also applies to about half a dozen palaces in and around Rome that are owned by the "Holy Stuhls" are, such as the summer residence and the observatory in Castel Gandolfo. But part of the Vatican's audience hall is already on Italian soil, as is Campo Santo Teutonico.

The Pope has absolutist power, he exercises full legislative and judicial power. With a commission of cardinals, which the Pope appoints for five years, he exercises legislative and executive power. At the same time, the pope is bishop of Rome, the episcopal see is San Giovanni in Laterano. The corps of the Swiss Guard has traditionally ensured the security of the pope and the state since 1506. The Guard is recruited from young unmarried Swiss Catholics who serve at the Vatican for a limited time.


Travel Destinations


St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica (Basilika St. Peter) is 211.5 m long, 138 m wide and its dome reaches a height of 136.5 m, it can hold around 20,000 worshipers. So much for the sober numbers, but they say little about the importance of the building. The church stands over the tomb of the apostle Peter and is the center of the Roman Catholic Church, it is the papal basilica, but not the seat of the bishop of Rome.

The construction of St. Peter's Basilica began in 1506 under Pope Julius II. The construction was financed with the Peterspfennig and with the sale of letters of indulgence, which was ultimately one of the triggers for the Reformation. One of the construction managers of the cathedral was Michelangelo, who designed the dome. The building was completed in 1626 under the supervision of Bernini.
The basilica is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in winter until 6 p.m. It may be closed to tourists during church services. Admission is free. A security check takes place on the right side of St. Peter's Square at the end of the colonnade.

From the steps of St. Peter's Square you get to the porch. Five doors lead from it to St. Peter's Basilica. On the far right is the Holy Door, it is only opened in a Holy Year (last in December 2015). The Filarete door in the middle is also usually locked. On organized tours, you usually enter the church through the second door from the right. Right next to the entrance, in a side chapel, protected by bulletproof glass, is Michelangelo's Pieta. The dimensions of the church are indicated by markings on the floor of the central nave, showing the length of other important Christian churches.

The main altar of the church was built over the tomb of the apostle Peter. This altar is reserved for the Pope. Above the altar is a canopy, it stands on four twisted and decorated bronze pillars that are around 20m high. High above the canopy is the dome.

An almost black bronze figure of the Apostle Peter, standing on the right-hand side, comes from the predecessor church of today's cathedral. Many visitors believe that touching your feet makes you a happier person.

Also worth seeing:
Vatican grottoes below the basilica with the tombs of several popes. Access by the front right pillar of the dome. At the end of the grottos you get back to the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica directly next to the staircase to the dome.
Treasury, access on the left next to the sacristy, open 9am-6pm (Oct-Mar until 5.30pm). Copy of Michelangelo's Pieta, several rooms with liturgical objects and vestments. You have to pay an entrance fee for this area.



Probably the most beautiful vantage point in Rome is on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. It was designed by Michelangelo, but the master did not live to see its completion in 1593. The cylindrical tambour rests on four mighty wall pillars, above which rises the double-shelled dome, which is lit from above through the openings of the lantern. With a height of 136.5m and a diameter of 42.3m, this dome is the largest self-supporting brick structure in the world. It is also the tallest domed building, but its diameter is exceeded by the Pantheon by about 80 cm.

Admission to the dome: without lift 551 steps 8 €, with lift only 320 steps 10 €. Access daily from 8 a.m., in summer until 5 p.m., from October to March until 4 p.m.

Go to the security checkpoint on the right-hand side of the cathedral. It is advisable to leave larger bags in the cloakroom. The lift goes up to the roof terrace of St. Peter's Basilica. A staircase leads along the tambour to the beginning of the dome vault, from where you can look inside the church and you can see that the letters of the inscription are 2m high and the paintings, which look delicate from below, are in fact huge mosaics. A staircase continues up the inner dome shell to the start of the lantern, then a narrow spiral staircase leads up to the roof of the lantern. From there you have a magnificent view over the Eternal City. The way back is laid out in the same way on the opposite side. On the roof terrace there is a toilet, a souvenir shop, a small cafeteria and a drinking water fountain.


St. Peter's Square

Tens of thousands of believers regularly gather on St. Peter's Square in front of the entrance to the cathedral to receive the Pope's blessing. This is visible to all in the Benedictine loggia in the middle of the façade or looks out of a window in the adjoining palace. The square in front of the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica was designed in two parts by Bernini in 1656-1667. At the entrance area is the trapezoidal piazza retta, which slopes slightly towards the rear and makes the facade appear higher. This is followed by an elliptical part, the Piazza obliqua. St. Peter's Square is lined with 17m wide covered colonnades, each with 4 columns, on the parapets of these colonnades there are 144 larger-than-life statues of saints. In the middle of St. Peter's Square there is a 25m high obelisk, it was erected here by Domenico Fontana in 1586, i.e. before the square was designed. There is a fountain to the left and right of it. Between the fountains and the colonnades there is a marble circle on the left and right. It marks the spot from which you can only see the foremost of the four pillars.

On the left side of St. Peter's Square you will find tourist information, a first aid station, toilet, post office and bank.

Vatican train station. There has been a train station in Vatican City since 1933, albeit modestly small and little used. It is in the Vatican Gardens, in the building there is a shop for the employees and a museum of coins and stamps.
Vatican audience hall (Aula Paolo VI) built in 1971. It holds about 12,000 visitors. Part of the hall is on Vatican State property, most of it is on Italian soil but is extraterritorial property of the Holy See.
The Campo Santo Teutonico is an extraterritorial area, but accessible from inside Vatican City. It is open daily in the morning from 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and during church services (Sun 9:00 a.m., Mon - Sat 7:00 a.m. in German, except Wed in Latin and on Sat in Italian). If you want to visit the cemetery, you have to report to the Swiss Guards at the gate south of St. Peter's Basilica (to the left of St. Peter's Basilica, the left bell gate) between the colonnades and the Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio and in German the access to the German Cemetery or Campo Santo Teutonico desire. Anyone wishing to be admitted should wear appropriate clothing and behave appropriately. Going through the gate, a smaller gate on the left leads to the campo.
The Passetto di Borgo is an 800m long connecting wall between the Vatican and Castel Sant'Angelo. There is a connecting passage in this wall. In times of war, he made it possible to escape from the Vatican to the safety of Castel Sant'Angelo.
Peter's Tomb and Necropolis, under St. Peter's Basilica. Tel.: +39 06 6988 5318. Guided visit only, reservation at the Ufficio Scavi.


Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums, Citta del Vaticano (entrance Viale Vaticano). Tel: +39 06 6988 3860. Non-flash and non-tripod photography is permitted, except inside the Sistine Chapel. Security checks are mandatory, larger items such as bags or umbrellas must be handed in at the cloakroom, you get them back at the exit free of charge. Open: Mon - Sat 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. (admission until 4 p.m.), last Sun of the month 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. (admission until 12 p.m.), otherwise closed on Sun and public holidays. Price: Admission adults €17, concessions €8, online reservation +4 €.

The art collections of the Vatican are among the most important in the world, they are visited by more than 4 million people every year. The rush is accordingly, and if you don't like standing in line, you can also buy the tickets online for an additional fee of 4€. Another option is to take part in an organized tour. You can find relevant brochures in every hotel and tourist information office. However, it is impossible to see all the art treasures on such a tour, many take the shortest route to the Sistine Chapel and then leave the museum in the direction of St. Peter's Basilica. One way to see at least the essential works is to take the museum's recommended sightseeing tour for people with disabilities.

Departments of the Museum: The art treasures are housed in the palaces of the Vatican. The most famous rooms are the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms.

Museo Gregoriano Egizio. Gregorian Egyptian Museum.
Gregorian Etruscan Museum. Gregorian Etruscan Museum.
Museum of Classical Antiquity
Museo Pio Clemento
Chiaramonti Museum
Museo Gregoriano Profano
Vatican Pinacoteca. painting collection.
Vatican Historical Museum. Vatican History Museum. It is housed in the Lateran Palace.

Sistine Chapel
The name goes back to Pope Sixtus VI. It was built between 1475 and 1483. However, the dimensions of 40.9m long, 13.4m wide and 20.7m high are somewhat unusual for a chapel. The chapel is now part of the Vatican Museums.

Well-known artists of the Renaissance contributed to the design, in addition to the most well-known, Michelangelo, among others also Botticelli, Perugino and Signorelli. The frescoes on the south wall show scenes from the Old Testament, on the north wall there are scenes from the life of Jesus. The fresco in the center is Michelangelo's Last Judgment. He also painted part of the ceiling fresco, which depicts the creation of Adam.

The Sistine Chapel has been the site of the conclave since 1878, during which a successor to a deceased Pope is elected in the event of a Sede Vacante. In the conclave on 12./13. Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina was elected Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel in March 2013.

From St. Peter's Square, people will again wait for fumata bianca, white smoke, to rise from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel's sacristy, which was extended especially for a conclave, announcing that a new pope has been elected. On the other hand, if fumata nera, black smoke, rises, one ballot was unsuccessful and another ballot will further test the patience of Catholics.

Raphael Rooms
The "Stanzen" are four rooms in the Vatican Palace that were painted by Raphael on behalf of Pope Julius II. The rooms are named after the main themes of the paintings:
Sala di Constantino
Stanza d'Eliodoro
Stanza della Segnatura
Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo

The palace walls enclose several courtyards, such as the Cortile ottogonale, the Cortile della Bibliotheca and the Cortile Pigna , in which stands a meter-high bronze pine cone.

The staircases are also noteworthy, such as the Scala Bramante, the Scala Simonetti and the old spiral staircase at the exit.

Vatican Gardens
With a surface area of around 200,000 m², the Vatican Gardens form almost half of the Vatican State. Among other things, they consist of various landscaped gardens, artistically designed baroque gardens, wooded areas, meadows and areas in which vegetables and fruit are grown. The Vatican Heliport is also located in the gardens.

Parts of the Vatican Gardens can be visited as part of guided tours by prior arrangement.

The Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens is not accessible, but will in future be of greater public interest. So far, a group of nuns from different orders have lived here for five years each, their tasks include processing fruit and vegetables from the gardens. After completion of an extension, the resigned Pope Benedict XVI. get their own area in the monastery.


Getting here

The Holy See has the same entry and customs regulations as Italy. Entry by air or rail is not possible for normal tourists. Arrival routes to the Vatican lead via Rome or by ship to Ostia with a subsequent onward journey to Rome. The Vatican is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen Agreement, but there were no border controls with Italy before, which is why crossing the border usually takes place without controls. Along with Andorra, Monaco and San Marino, the Vatican is one of four countries that have the euro as their official currency without being a member of the EU.

Metro: Line A, Ottavio / San Pietro station, Metro Cipro
Tram: Line 19, Piazza Risorgimento
Train: Lines FR3, FR5: Roma San Pietro station
Bus: line 40, stop at Piazza Pia near Castel Sant'Angelo, line 23, stop at Via Leone IV at the Vatican Museums


Getting around

The areas of the Vatican open to tourists can only be reached on foot. Vatican citizens and employees have the option of entering the Vatican by motor vehicle.

For people with reduced mobility there are numerous exceptions at the entrance to the Vatican Museums, they have priority at entry and do not have to queue, but report to the special "Permessi Speciali" counter. From a verifiable severe disability of 75%, you also have free admission to the museums, including one accompanying person. Wheelchairs can be borrowed by prior arrangement at Guide dogs may be muzzled in the Vatican.

Access to the Vatican Gardens is not possible with a wheelchair.

In the Vatican there is the Vatican City train station, the only train station in the Vatican state territory, this is served by special trips, which start and end in Vatican City train station, in addition, every Saturday morning a train runs from the train station to Rome.



The official languages are Italian and Latin. Since the Vatican is a major pilgrimage and tour official languages are Italian and Latin. Since the Vatican is an important pilgrimage and tourist destination, English, German, French, Spanish and other languages are common.

If you have any questions (e.g. orientation, toilets, but also of a cultural nature), it is advisable to ask a Swiss guard, as most are from German-speaking Switzerland. Also, every guardsman seems to be able to speak English.

Activity list goal is English, German, French, Spanish and other languages are fluent.

If you have any questions (e.g. orientation, toilets, but also of a cultural nature), it is advisable to ask a Swiss guard, as most are from German-speaking Switzerland. Also, every guardsman seems to be able to speak English.


What to do

For well over a million people every year, an audience with the Pope is the highlight of their visit to the Eternal City. A general audience usually takes place on Wednesday, in good weather on St. Peter's Square, if it rains in the audience hall. In September, the Pope usually stays at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Participation in an audience is free, but it must be requested in advance from the pilgrimage center.

Pilgrims also gather in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer on Sundays at 12 noon. The pope then prays at a window of his apartment and then blesses the faithful. If the Pope is in his residence in the summer, the prayer is transmitted to the square via audio.



The currency in the Vatican is the euro, but the Vatican has the right to issue its own euro coins. After these were sold exclusively as collectors' items until 2010, the EU obliged the Vatican to also introduce its own euro coins into regular payment transactions. The Vatican euro coins are in great demand due to the variety of motifs and the small number of pieces and are regularly traded well above the face value.

The Vatican offers a wide range of souvenirs, postcards and books in the post office, where you can quickly send mail to Germany, in the souvenir shop on the roof of St. Peter's Church and of course in the museum shop of the Vatican Museums. In addition to religious devotional items, there is a particularly good selection of illustrated and art books. The post office is on the left side of St. Peter's Square or directly after exiting the security area of St. Peter's Basilica.



The Vatican Museums have a restaurant/cafeteria, a bar and a pizzeria. The opening hours correspond to those of the museum.
On the roof terrace of the Peterskirche there is a small café where you can buy coffee, drinks and small snacks at surprisingly low prices. When the weather is nice, you can enjoy a wonderful view of St. Peter's Square and Rome.



Residenza Paolo VI (the only hotel within the walls of the Vatican), Via Paolo VI, 29 00193 Roma (close to St. Peter's Square). Tel.: +39 06 68 487 0, Fax: +39 06 68 67 428. Feature: ★★★★.

In the Vatican, the guest house 2 Domus Sanctae martae is primarily available for official guests of the Pope and the Roman Curia. During a conclave, so also in March 2013, the cardinals entitled to elect the pope will live in the guest house.

There are no other overnight accommodations for tourists in the Vatican. However, in the neighboring Rioni Borgo and Prati and in the Quartieri Trionfale and Della Vittoria north of the Vatican, there are numerous accommodations of all categories.



The Vatican is an employer for administrative employees such as secretaries, police officers, firefighters and gardeners, but also for many journalists at Vatican Radio. There are around 4,000 employees of the Holy See, most of whom do not live in the Vatican State itself.

Good relationships are crucial for employment in the Vatican, but anyone (male and female, Catholic and non-Catholic) can apply. An exception is the guards of the Swiss Guard, for which, in addition to belonging to the Catholic Church, origin from Switzerland is required.


Public holidays

In addition to all 52 Sundays and the ten required Catholic holidays, there are other days off, including Independence Day and May Day. The date of the national holiday on the anniversary of the papal election and the holiday on the occasion of the pope's name day depend on the respective pope. Holiday periods are at Easter (six days), at Assumption (three days) and at Christmas (four days).

The currently valid holiday regulations of the Vatican can be found in Art. 50 of the Regolamento generale della Curia Romana (RGCR), the General Regulations of the Roman Curia of April 30, 1999 (AAS 91 (1999) 652).

Monday, January 1, 2024 Solemnity of Our Lady Mary New Year
Saturday, January 6, 2024 Epiphany
Sunday 11 February 2024 Independence Day Anniversary of the founding of Vatican City State, 1929
Wednesday, March 13, 2024 Day of the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope National Day, anniversary of the election of the Pope since 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2024 St. Joseph Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Thursday, March 28, 2024 Maundy Thursday
Friday 29 March 2024 Good Friday Commemoration of Christ's crucifixion
Saturday March 30, 2024 Holy Saturday
Sunday, April 9, 2023 Resurrection of the Lord Easter, the highest Christian holiday, commemorates the resurrection of Christ
Monday 10 April 2023 Easter Monday Easter, Commemoration of Christ's Resurrection
Tuesday April 11, 2023 Tuesday after Easter
Sunday, April 23, 2023 Feast of Saint George Name Day of the Holy Father (Jorge Mario Bergoglio / Pope Francis)
Monday, May 1, 2023 Feast of St. Joseph the Worker International Labor Day
Thursday, May 18, 2023 Ascension Day 40 days after Easter, Commemoration of the Ascension of Christ
Sunday, May 28, 2023 Pentecost Sunday 7 weeks after Easter, commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Monday, May 29, 2023 Whit Monday 1 day after Whit Sunday, commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Thursday, June 8, 2023 Body and Blood of the Lord Corpus Christi
Thursday, June 29, 2023 Saints Peter and Paul Peter and Paul
Monday, August 14, 2023 day before Assumption Day
Tuesday, August 15, 2023 Assumption of Mary into Heaven
Wednesday, August 16, 2023 day after Assumption Day
Wednesday, November 1, 2023 All Saints' Day Christian festival commemorating all saints
Thursday, November 2, 2023 All Souls' Day
Friday, December 8, 2023 Virgin Mary and Mother of God conceived without original sin
Sunday 24 December 2023 Christmas Eve
Monday, December 25, 2023 Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Christmas, Commemoration of Christ's Nativity
Tuesday December 26, 2023 St. Stephen the First Martyr
Wednesday December 27, 2023 St. John Apostle and Evangelist
Sunday 31 December 2023 Holy Silvester I Pope (335)



The Swiss Guard has been ensuring the security of the state border, the Apostolic Palaces and last but not least the Pope himself since 1506. In their colorful uniforms, the Guardsmen stand next to the entrances of St. Peter's Basilica and are also a tourist attraction. At the entrances to the office buildings, their uniforms are kept in a simple blue, which is less conspicuous. Also responsible for maintaining public order and security is the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, which, together with the Italian State Police, performs police tasks.



When visiting St. Peter's Square in the summer, it's a good idea to stock up on drinks and sunscreen so you're prepared for waiting in the blazing sun. There is a first aid post in the entrance area of the Vatican Museums.

Not far from St. Peter's Square is the only pharmacy in the Vatican where over-the-counter medicines and, subject to approval by the Vatican authorities, also prescription medicines can be purchased with a prescription. Many medicines that are not stocked in Italian pharmacies can easily be bought in the Vatican. In principle, no forms of contraceptives, sexual enhancers or addictive substances are listed.

The European health insurance card is not valid, but that is more of a theoretical nature, since there are neither doctors nor a hospital in the Vatican and in an emergency you will be transported to Italy.



Appropriate clothing according to local standards is expected when entering St. Peter's Church: Men and women should avoid knee-length clothing, i.e. any kind of shorts or short skirts. Shoulders should be covered, entering the church in sleeveless tops is undesirable for both men and women.

In a Christian church it is not customary for men to wear a hat, as are baseball caps and the like, which are removed out of respect before entering a place of worship. Women, on the other hand, often cover their heads with a scarf or a hat, which is still very common, especially in Italy.

The public audiences of the Pope in St. Peter's Square, which take place every Wednesday morning, are not a tourist attraction, but offer pilgrims, who come from all parts of the world, the unique opportunity to see their Pope. As in any service, people should be treated with respect.


Practical advice

Travel time

The Vatican is a year-round destination. As for Rome as a whole, the best time to travel is the mild months from May to October, with August being the hottest month of the year with an average maximum temperature of 28°C.

At Easter and Christmas and also at the assumption of office, the Pope gives the faithful the blessing "Urbi et Orbi". For the occasion, St. Peter's Square is packed with devout Catholics from around the world and there are extensive security checks. Parts of St. Peter's Basilica may be closed. The same applies to the conclave (papal elections), which last over several days.

Post and telecommunications
The Vatican issues its own postage stamps and has a post office right on St. Peter's Square. It is on the left side of St. Peter's Square near the exit from St. Peter's Basilica. Here you can buy stamps, postcards, stationery and souvenirs. Letters and postcards can be posted here directly or dropped into the mailbox in front of the post office after work. Another mailbox is located at the exit of the Vatican Museums cloakroom and in front of the souvenir shop on the roof of the Basilica.

The Vatican Post is significantly faster than the Italian, especially for postcards.



The Vatican City is located in Rome west of the Tiber on the Vatican Hill, which is the highest elevation in the country. In some places it is surrounded by a city wall, but its course does not completely coincide with the border of the national territory.

It is surrounded by the Roman districts of Municipio I and Aurelia and borders on the historic Rioni Borgo and Prati. In addition to St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's Square and the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are also located on national territory. The Vatican Gardens make up the largest part of the national territory. There are a number of extraterritorial possessions of the Holy See which have status similar to embassy lands and which are not part of Vatican City territory. These include areas directly adjacent to the national territory such as the Palazzo San Pio X, the Campo Santo Teutonico and most of the Vatican Audience Hall. The state border runs through the middle of the audience hall, with the papal throne still standing on Vatican territory, but the audience visitors are watching from other Italian countries. The Roman patriarchal basilicas, the northwestern part of the Gianicolo, various palaces in the Roman old town, the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo and a Vatican Radio broadcasting center in Santa Maria di Galeria are extraterritorial possessions of the Holy See.



The climate of Vatican City is the same as that of Rome: a temperate, Mediterranean Csa climate with mild, rainy winters from October to mid-May and hot, dry summers from May to September. Some minor local peculiarities, most notably fog and dew, are caused by the unusually large mass of St. Peter's, the height, the fountains, and the size of the large paved square.



Of the 842 people residing in the Vatican in 2014, 572 had Vatican citizenship, which is always granted for a limited time and tied to a function. It therefore never replaces another citizenship. If a person becomes stateless due to the withdrawal of Vatican citizenship, they automatically become Italian citizens. All cardinals residing in the Vatican or in Rome, all diplomats of the Holy See and, upon application, all other persons residing and working in the Vatican hold Vatican citizenship. At 100 percent, Vatican City has the highest proportion of Catholics and the highest literacy rate in the world.

Women and children of Vatican citizens can also obtain Vatican citizenship. However, women lose it upon separation, male descendants at the age of 25, females more likely if they marry and their spouse does not also have Vatican citizenship.

In addition to the Pope, his close associates in the papal household, the head of the Roman Curia, the Swiss Guards and the gendarmerie corps also live in Vatican City. Of the 3,000 employees, only a few live in the Vatican itself. Most of the employees are the members of the government, masters of ceremonies, shop assistants, restorers, cooks, office workers, printers, employees of the Bank of the Holy See (Istituto per le Opere di Religione, IOR, "Vatican Bank") or cleaning staff. The employees can be roughly divided into five groups:

Domestic staff: cooks, cleaners, valet etc.
Clergy: Priests who perform much of the administrative and art history work
Security: Pontifical Swiss Guard, Gendarmerie Corps and custodians for churches and museums
Radio and Press: Editors of L'Osservatore Romano, Radio Vatican and Centro Televisivo Vaticano
Teaching staff for the pontifical universities and chairs



Until the 14th century, the official seat of the popes was not the Vatican, but the Lateran Palace, located about five kilometers east of it. “Vatican” initially referred to a hill on the right bank of the Tiber (Latin mons vaticanus). In ancient times, Emperor Nero's circus was located there, where the martyrdom and executions of numerous Christians and Jews are said to have taken place. North of the circus was a small cemetery where the apostle Peter was said to be buried. A monument was later built there, and in the 4th century Emperor Constantine had a large Church of the Holy Sepulcher built on this site - the first Peterskirche. The Vatican became the central place of pilgrimage for the veneration of Peter. In the centuries that followed, other buildings were erected on the hill, especially so-called scholae, which offered pilgrims of different nationalities accommodation, chapels and cemeteries, but also had fortifications. Under Leo IV, the Leonine Wall, some of which still exists today, was built around the entire pilgrimage site between 847 and 852 to protect against the Saracens. The so-called Leostadt was created.

In the course of late antiquity, the bishop of Rome was able to assert his claim to primacy within Christianity to a large extent and since Gregory the Great (around 600) at the latest, he can be referred to as pope. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the popes claimed secular rule over the territory around Rome, which became the nucleus of the future Papal States, with reference to the "Donation of Constantine" (which was exposed as a forgery in the 15th century). In 751 this state was finally guaranteed to them by the Pippine Donation, after the popes had ceased to recognize the suzerainty of the Eastern Roman-Byzantine emperor a few years earlier. Initially, the popes did not reside in the Vatican but in the Lateran Palace; the Cathedral of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is still the Lateran Basilica outside of Vatican City.

The Vatican Hill only became the papal seat of government, the location of the Roman Curia and thus the center of the Papal States and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole towards the end of the 14th century, with the return of the popes from Avignon (1377) and the end of the schism (1417). After the schism, the newly won unity of the church was to be illustrated by large building projects. The Vatican, located in front of the gates of Rome, offered sufficient undeveloped space in addition to the proximity to the suspected bones of Peter. In the middle of the 15th century, Nicholas V in particular drew up huge building plans that were only partially implemented under him and his successors. Partly planned, partly for pragmatic reasons, churches, chapels, administrative buildings, fortifications, accommodation and other buildings were built on the Vatican Hill in the following centuries. In 1506, construction work began on St. Peter's Basilica. In 1589, Sixtus V commissioned the construction of the Apostolic Palace, which still contains the Pope's residence and important administrative organs. St. Peter's Basilica was consecrated in 1626, the final construction lasted until 1650. Shortly thereafter, St. Peter's Square was given its current form.

Parallel to the expansion of the Vatican, the territory of the Papal States expanded. Up until the 19th century it stretched across what is now central Italy, from Rome in the south-west to Bologna in the north-east – with the regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna. However, in the course of the French Revolution in 1798 the area was declared a Roman Republic, and in 1808 the territories were incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. However, the Congress of Vienna restored the Papal States.

In the course of Italian unification, the Papal States was in the first years of the pontificate of Pope Pius IX. shaken again by radical democratic uprisings in the Europe-wide bourgeois revolution of 1848/49 (compare the German Revolution of 1848/49 and the February Revolution of 1848). This led to the flight of the pope and to another republic in the Papal States, which lasted just under five months (February to July 1849) until it was crushed by French and Spanish intervention troops (compare Roman Republic (1849)). The President of France and later (from 1852) French Emperor Napoléon III. left some troops in Rome until 1870 as the protective power of the Pope, who re-established police-state conditions in the Papal States after the suppression of the revolution. After the Sardinian War between the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont and France on the one hand and Austria on the other hand, part of the Papal States fell to the newly proclaimed Kingdom of Italy as early as 1861. When France withdrew its protective troops from Rome due to the Franco-Prussian War, the rest of the Church States (Latium with Rome) were occupied by troops under King Victor Emmanuel II in 1870. The status of Vatican City was initially unclear (the so-called Roman question), but the de facto rule of the Catholic Church remained in it, so that from 1870 the ecclesiastical administrative bodies from the rest of the Papal States were concentrated in Vatican City. During this time, the structural and institutional isolation from the rest of Rome developed. Considerations to strengthen the negotiating basis of the papacy towards Italy to solve the Roman question through a sovereign territorial basis (without initially considering that the pope would leave Rome) were aimed at Friuli, Elba, Trento or Liechtenstein, among others, but remained without a result. Finally, the Papal States were re-established as a sovereign state by the Lateran Treaties of 1929 between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, which was meanwhile dictatorially ruled by Benito Mussolini. After that, it only includes the area around St. Peter's Basilica, which is delimited by a wall.



Constitutional law

The Basic Law of the Vatican combines the powers of the legislative, executive and judiciary in the person of the Pope as the sovereign of the Vatican State (Article 1) and further regulates their implementation. Vatican City law is applied by the courts of Vatican City State.


Sources of law

The Law on Legal Sources (Legge sulle fonti del diritto) of October 1, 2008 (in force since January 1, 2009) establishes Canon Law as the first legal source and reference point for interpretation. Other main sources are the laws, decrees, regulations and international agreements issued by the Vatican State (Article 1). If you need regulations for areas that are not considered in the previous legal sources, you can fall back on Italian laws and legal decrees. A few subsidiary takeovers that are fundamental for a state (e.g. civil and criminal law books) have been explicitly defined since the state was founded and in some cases have been frozen at the time of the takeover. There are changes through explicit amendments. Other takeovers happened almost automatically until 2008, since 2009 the Vatican authorities first have to expressly approve the applicable legal sources. This is intended to offer additional protection against the application of legal provisions by liberal governments that are incompatible with Catholic doctrine. A general exclusion clause always applies to these general assumptions and to the specific assumptions mentioned below if the legal decrees are in contradiction to the commandments of divine law, to the general principles of canon law and to bilateral treaties (Article 3). In the case of strong divergences, use has already been made of this clause.

The other sections mainly regulate the adoption of basic state legal sources, as has been the case since 1929. The Italian Civil Code of March 16, 1942 with its amendments until December 31, 2008 has subsidiary validity (Article 4) with a few exceptions listed separately (e.g. citizenship and personal status law and marriage is governed exclusively by canon law). The current version of the Vatican Book of Civil Procedures from 1946 applies to the proceedings. (Art. 5) If a civil dispute cannot be resolved in this way, the judge decides taking into account divine and natural law and general Vatican principles (Art. 6).


Vatican criminal law

A reorganization of the criminal justice system has been promised since 2008 and implemented in the following decade. Until then, as since 1929, the Italian Criminal Code applied without restrictions with a few adjustments in its own laws (Article 7). While the Italian Penal Code (Codice Penale, CP) from 1889 – frozen in the version of June 8, 1929 – was initially valid, the effective date in 1969 was brought forward to December 31, 1924. The death penalty, which was reintroduced in Italy in 1926 and from 1948 could only be imposed for crimes committed during war, was also abolished in the Vatican.


Vatican criminal procedural law

The Italian Code of Criminal Procedure adopted in 1929 also applies to criminal procedural law, with the current Vatican adjustments (Article 8). If an offense is not discussed in Vatican law and not in Italian law of 1924 with the Vatican Adaptations and the act violates the general principles of religion, morality, public order or security of persons and property, the judge can still impose a monetary, liberty or impose an alternative punishment (art. 9; 1929-2008: art. 23). This was used, for example, in a drug possession trial, an act that doesn't even come close in the Vatican criminal justice system since it wasn't a criminal issue in the 1920's. In the course of this case, it was also clarified in 2007 that the then Art. 23 does not contradict legality, despite general regulations on criminal law. Art. 12 still adopts Italian administrative regulations for certain areas such as the system of measurements, postal services, railways, etc. as of December 31, 2008, and (apparently without any time limit) also Italian regulations and regulations of the Lazio Region, the Province and the City of Rome for building police, hygiene and public health. The labor law for Vatican employees was approved by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. reformed. The Central Labor Office of the Apostolic See was established by John Paul II in 1989 to oversee the economic and social rights of the 4,600 employees, lay and clergy of the world's smallest state.


Special cases

In 2021-2022, the Vatican judiciary dealt with an alleged financial scandal involving Angelo Becchiu, which is said to have caused damage to the Vatican budget of 217 million euros.



Political system

As Bishop of Rome, the Pope is ex officio head of state of the Vatican City State and possesses the full legislative, executive and judicial powers in accordance with Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law of the Vatican State. Vatican City is the last absolute monarchy in Europe. When the state became a state in 1929, a basic law was promulgated that was reformed in 2001. Since 1984, the Cardinal Secretary of State has been entrusted with the permanent representation of the Pope in the secular government of Vatican City.

During the vacancy of the see, i.e. the period of time between the death or resignation of the pope and the election of his successor, all papal power rests. The College of Cardinals has all the temporal powers of the Pope. The most urgent task of the College of Cardinals is the direction of the papal election, which takes place in the so-called conclave. Elections only take place for the office of Pope when he dies or (rarely) resigns (Sede vacancy). In this case, active suffrage is restricted to cardinals who were under the age of 80 on the day before the see became vacant. In principle, any baptized man who can be validly ordained as a bishop (i.e. is unmarried or widowed) can be elected. In practice, only cardinals have been elected popes for centuries. Women's suffrage does not exist. In particularly urgent cases, the College of Cardinals can also carry out official business other than organizing the election of the Pope during the vacancy of the Sede. However, such decrees are limited in their effectiveness to the duration of the vacancy of the Sedis. The newly elected pope is at liberty to confirm or reject these provisions according to the norms of canon law.

Unless the Pope has reserved a decision for himself or for special members of the Curia, the legislative power is exercised by the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, which consists of seven Curia cardinals. It is appointed by the Pope for five years and draws up legislative proposals that are submitted to the Pope by the State Secretariat for approval. She is mainly responsible for determining the financial and budgetary policies of Vatican City.

Executive power is exercised by the Vatican City Governorate, whose President Fernando Cardinal Vérgez Alzaga is also the President of the Pontifical Commission. He is supported in his work by a general secretary as head of the governorate, responsible for the central administration. The Cardinal President submits important questions to the Commission or the Secretariat of State for review.

The judiciary (law of Vatican City) consists of a court of first instance, a court of appeal and a court of cassation. Judgments are made in the name of the Pope. According to the basic state law, this person has the right to intervene comprehensively in any criminal or civil matter and in every phase and, for example, to transfer the decision-making authority in a process to a special instance or to himself. Legal remedies are no longer permissible in such cases; its judicial and ecclesiastical jurisdiction is universal. The death penalty was formally abolished in 1969. It has never been enforced in the history of Vatican City State.


International Relations

Although the pope as a natural person is head of state, the Lateran treaties designate the Holy See (subject of international law) as sovereign. Thus, the Vatican State is the only subject of international law whose sovereign is himself a subject of international law (different from his state).

The State of Vatican City does not establish diplomatic relations with other states, but leaves this to the Holy See, which as a sovereign non-state subject of international law is also represented by the Pope and represents Vatican City in diplomatic dealings. On the one hand, this is done to avoid duplicate structures in the diplomatic service. On the other hand, the Vatican City State is not intended to act as such among the states of the world. Therefore, the pope generally does not pay state visits, but pastoral visits, although the protocol treats him as a head of state due to his status as a subject of international law.

The Holy See currently maintains diplomatic relations with 180 countries.

Vatican City State is also not a member e.g. the United Nations, UNESCO or the World Trade Organization, while the Holy See enjoys permanent observer status with these and other international organizations, sometimes also – as in the case of the OSCE and IAEA – as a full member. Among the few international organizations to which Vatican City State belongs directly and not through the intermediary of the Holy See are, for example, the Universal Postal Union (since 1929), CEPT (since 1963) and Interpol, whose functions are less political and more technical in nature are. The Vatican City State is also not a member of the Council of Europe and therefore cannot be a member of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is essentially limited to members of the Council of Europe. In the Council of Europe, however, the Holy See is an observer. Vatican City State is also not a member of the International Criminal Court.

In addition, the Vatican City State has not signed the OECD "Common Reporting Standard". This makes the Vatican, along with Belarus, the only country in Europe that has not signed the standard on combating tax evasion and money laundering. The Vatican has been criticized in the past for laundering money for the mafia.

Certain Holy See possessions in and around Rome have extraterritorial status under the Lateran Treaties, but are not part of Vatican territory. The Swiss Guard and the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps are responsible for the internal security of the state. External security is guaranteed by the Italian state.



With the Swiss Guard, the Vatican has the smallest (approx. 100 members) and oldest (since 1506) army in the world. There is also a separate police force for internal security, the Corpo della Gendarmeria. However, the Vatican has no air or sea forces. External national defense is secured by Italy under a bilateral agreement. According to the Lateran Treaties, Italy is responsible for security in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. The surveillance is carried out by the "Vatican" Public Safety Inspectorate, which reports directly to the Public Safety Department of the Italian Police.

There is a security check for visitors upon entry, which is mostly done on foot, but no ID or customs checks. No controls are carried out when leaving for Italy, so goods brought with you remain de facto duty and tax-free.

The Vatican can hand over criminal offenders on its territory, regardless of whether they are arrested there by its own gendarmerie or by auxiliaries of the Italian police, to Italy for trial, which is obliged to take over and must apply Vatican law. In the case of a prior escape to Italian territory, action will be taken against the perpetrator without further ado on the basis of Italian law.

The Vatican State has the highest crime rate in the world when the number of crimes is compared to the number of inhabitants; in fact, this is due to the fact that the perpetrators and victims of the crimes come almost exclusively from among the 18 million annual visitors. This is mainly petty crime such as handbag theft. The Vatican prison can only accommodate two people. It has rarely been used throughout history: one of the inmates was a priest convicted of illegally transferring funds; the second was a man caught stealing coins in St. Peter's Basilica; the third was a Swedish tourist who attacked a priest and most recently a Swiss visitor who had grossly insulted a guardsman was arrested. Pope assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca did not serve his sentence in the Vatican but in a Roman prison. According to media reports, the Pope's valet was imprisoned in the Vatican in 2012 after making the headlines because of the "Vatileaks" affair. At the end of 2015, Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda was in detention there in connection with the “second Vatileaks affair”.

Fire department
In 2018, the Vatican City Fire Department had a total of 37 professional firefighters working in a fire station with eight fire engines. The Vatican fire brigade organization Corpo dei vigili del fuoco dello Stato della Città del Vaticano represents the Vatican fire brigade with its fire brigade members in the world fire brigade association CTIF.



Economic situation

As a sovereign state, the Vatican handles its financial affairs independently.

At the beginning of the 1990s, in addition to the disclosure of state finances, noticeable efforts were made to simplify the organizational structure that had grown over the centuries. The management of Vatican assets is now based on four pillars:
the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See is responsible for the administration of all economic and financial affairs of the Holy See
The Vatican City Governorate is responsible for revenue and expenditure on the territory of Vatican City
the Administration of Goods of the Apostolic See (APSA) has the functions of the Treasury, the Central Bank of Vatican City and the Holy See.
the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), better known as the Vatican Bank, is a private credit institution owned by the Holy See


Public finances

One of the Vatican's main sources of income, aside from income from property tax-exempt real estate, is business within the Vatican. The profits from the supermarket as well as the surpluses from the Vatican petrol station, the pharmacy and the clothing store flow into the state treasury. Card payments in these establishments were blocked on January 1, 2013, but were made possible again just a few weeks later. The reason given was that the Vatican does not follow international money laundering rules. Therefore, the operator of the terminals, the Italian subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, is no longer allowed to operate in the Vatican.

Additional income is generated through souvenir stands, entrance fees and donations. On average, around 85 million euros are donated to the Vatican every year. Other sources of income are the sale of Vatican euro coins and commemorative coins as well as postage stamps. The rental of around 2400 properties outside the Vatican also guarantees a regular income.

In addition, the Vatican owns gold stored in New York, a good 850 properties with an estimated value of 1.5 billion euros, as well as art treasures of inestimable intangible value, of which former Pope John Paul II said: “They are not for sale, they belong to everyone People."

Revenue from church taxes and certain expenses are expressly excluded from the state balance sheet. These flow directly to the dioceses and religious orders all over the world, which, however, support the work of the Pope, the Vatican congregations, councils and ecclesiastical courts with amounts running into the millions. According to information from various dioceses in Germany, the Catholic Church expressly sees itself as a universal church, and since the Vatican performs important overarching tasks, all German dioceses contribute annually to the tasks of the universal church via the Association of German Dioceses.

Although Vatican City is not a member of the European Union, the euro (successor to the Vatican lira, which was equivalent to the Italian lira at the time) is official tender through bilateral agreements. However, the same customs regulations apply to trade with the Vatican as to trade with countries outside the European single market.

The budget for 2008 included expenditure equivalent to US$356.8 million with income equivalent to US$355.5 million. Bishop Carlo Maria Viganò, as general secretary of the economic administration of the Vatican, has reorganized the budget and led from a loss of approx. €8 million in 2009 to a surplus of more than €34 million in 2010.



There is no sales tax in the Vatican. Commercial advertising is prohibited, except on motor vehicles.

In 2008, Vatican City received the 2008 European Solar Prize for installing a solar power system the size of a soccer field. As a result, around 220 tons less carbon dioxide have been emitted each year since the Vatican installed it.

In 2010 the 100th fountain was opened in the Vatican. A well-known historic fountain in Vatican City is the Galley Fountain.

There is no hairdresser, no hospital (but an infirmary), no school, but a supermarket, a pharmacy (since 1874) and several petrol stations. The rubbish is removed by the Roman city administration. In the Vatican Museums there is a self-service restaurant, a pizzeria and a café, on the roof of St. Peter's there is a souvenir shop and a small café. There is no private property in the Vatican, apartments are allocated to Vatican citizens for the duration of their office. Citizens pay neither for electricity nor for telephone. Rents are very low and amount to about four percent of income.

The incomes of the lower salary bracket are around 1300 euros, a cardinal receives a little more than double. Vatican salaries are not subject to income tax. The Pope himself does not receive a salary. In 1981 a kind of trade union was founded with the "Workers' Association of Laity in the Vatican". The Vatican works a 36-hour week and there is no collective bargaining.

The ATMs in the Vatican (automatum monetale, plural: automata monetalia) also have a Latin language selection.


Traffic and infrastructure

The Vatican has had its own train station and around 200 meters of track since 1933. This means that the Vatican has the highest density of train stations in the world in relation to the population. The station is rarely used by the Curia itself for passenger transport, most recently in 1979 (to the nearest station, Roma San Pietro), in 2002 (to Assisi) by John Paul II and in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI. also to Assisi. Every Saturday, an FS train runs a group of visitors from this station to Castel Gandolfo on behalf of the Vatican Museums. In addition, there are always special trips for tour groups, e.g. B. in 2008 for the German Society for Railway History. Otherwise, this rail line is used for freight transport. The entrance to Vatican City is separated from Rome by a large gate. The Vatican railway siding to the Italian railway infrastructure is operated by the Vatican State Railways. A small department store has been housed in the station since 2003.

The Roma San Pietro train station (500 m as the crow flies south of Vatican City) is served by regular local rail passenger services. The S-Bahn-like trains of lines FL 3 and 5, which connect Rome with Viterbo and Civitavecchia, stop there.

Air traffic
The Vatican Heliport is located in the Vatican as a heliport. The nearest commercial airports are Rome Ciampino and Rome Fiumicino.

Road traffic
The approximately 50 streets have street names and signs. The two "main streets" are Via del Pellegrino and Via di Belvedere, both of which start at St. Anne's Gate, the main entrance to Vatican City.

There is no public transport within Vatican City. Vatican City can be reached on foot from the Roman subway station Ottaviano on subway line A. The planned metro line C was supposed to serve an underground station at St. Peter's Square after 2021; according to the current status, however, the expansion will no longer be continued.

The Vatican City can also be reached via the Risorgimento stop with line 19 of the Rome tram and various bus lines. One of these bus lines is line 49 (Stazione Roma Monte Mario FL 3 ↔ Via di Torrevecchia ↔ L.GO Boccea/Cornelia A ↔ Risorgimento/San Pietro 19 ↔ Piazza Cavour), which opens up the north and east of Vatican City via Viale Vaticano. Tram line 19 also stops at the Ottaviano stop, so it intersects with metro line A there. All of these lines are operated by the ATAC.

Although Vatican City does not have direct access to the sea, the 1921 Barcelona Declaration allows it to navigate the high seas in its own vessels flying the papal flag - a right that is not currently exercised.

Postal service
As a sovereign state, the Vatican has its own postal administration, the "Poste Vaticane", whose stamps are only valid on its own territory. The postage is based on the corresponding charges of the Italian Post. Vatican City sends the most mail per capita per year (7,200); for comparison: in the United States there are 660 and in Italy 109 per year.

The Vatican City top-level domain is .va. It is one of the country-specific top-level domains with the fewest active addresses. The official language is Latin.


Culture and sights

Protection of cultural property
The entire Vatican City area has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Communication Organization (UNESCO) since 1984. Vatican City is the only country in the world whose entire territory is protected by UNESCO. In addition, the Vatican City is registered with UNESCO as a monument center (English center containing monuments) in the "International Register for Cultural Property under Special Protection" according to Chapter II of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflicts.

The Vatican has a soccer team and its own league. However, as the country does not have a soccer field that meets FIFA standards, Vatican City is not a member of FIFA.

Other sports
The Vatican State has had its own cricket team, the St Peter's Cricket Club, since 2013.

Although the Vatican is the center of the Catholic Church, it does not have a bishopric on its territory. St. Peter's Basilica was never an episcopal cathedral, but the burial church of the apostle Peter. The Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome is San Giovanni in Laterano (exterritorial territory). Even the parish church of the parish of the Vatican State is not St. Peter, but Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri.