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Vatican City or Vatican City-State, officially Stato della Città del Vaticano, which translates literally as "State of the City of the Vatican", is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, the capital city of Italy. It has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of just over 800.
Vatican City was established in 1929. It is distinct from the Holy See, which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.166 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin. The two entities even have distinct passports: the Holy See, not being a country, only issues diplomatic and service passports; Vatican City-State issues normal passports. Very few passports are issued by either authority.
The Lateran Treaty in 1929, which brought the city-state into existence, spoke of it as a new creation (Preamble and Article III), not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756-1870) that had previously encompassed much of central Italy. Most of this territory was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, and the final portion, namely the city of Rome with a small area close to it, ten years later, in 1870.
Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the bishop of Rome—the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergymen of various nationalities. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Pope's residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace.
In this originally uninhabited area (the ager vaticanus) on the opposite side of the Tiber from the city of Rome, Agrippina the Elder (14 BC – 18 October AD 33) drained the hill and environs and built her gardens in the early 1st century AD. Emperor Caligula (31 August AD 12 – 24 January AD 41; r. 37–41) started construction of a circus (AD 40) that was later completed by Nero, the Circus Gaii et Neronis, usually called, simply, the Circus of Nero.
The Vatican obelisk was originally taken by Caligula from Heliopolis, Egypt to decorate the spina of his circus and is thus its last visible remnant. This area became the site of martyrdom of many Christians after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. Ancient tradition holds that it was in this circus that St Peter was crucified upside-down.
Opposite the circus was a cemetery separated by the Via Cornelia. Funeral monuments and mausoleums and small tombs as well as altars to pagan gods of all kinds of polytheistic religions were constructed lasting until before the construction of the Constantinian Basilica of St Peter's in the first half of the 4th century. Remains of this ancient necropolis were brought to light sporadically during renovations by various popes throughout the centuries increasing in frequency during the Renaissance until it was systematically excavated by orders of Pope Pius XII from 1939 to 1941.
In 326, the first church, the Constantinian basilica, was built over the site that early Roman Catholic apologists (from the first century on) as well as noted Italian archaeologists argue was the tomb of St Peter, buried in a common cemetery on the spot. From then on the area started to become more populated, but mostly only by dwelling houses connected with the activity of St Peter's. A palace was constructed near the site of the basilica as early as the 5th century during the pontificate of Pope Symmachus (reigned 498–514).
Vatican City, one of the European microstates, is situated on the Vatican Hill in the west-central part of Rome, several hundred metres west of the Tiber river. Its borders (3.2 km / 2.0 mi in total, all within Italy) closely follow the city wall constructed to protect the Pope from outside attack. The situation is more complex at the famous St Peter's Square in front of St Peter's Basilica, where the correct border is just outside the ellipse formed by Bernini's colonnade, but where police jurisdiction has been entrusted to Italy.
The Vatican climate is the same as Rome's; a temperate, Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters from September to mid-May and hot, dry summers from May to August. There are some local features, principally mists and dews, caused by the anomalous bulk of St Peter's Basilica, the elevation, the fountains and the size of the large paved square.
The name "Vatican" predates Christianity and comes from the Latin Mons Vaticanus, meaning Vatican Mount. The territory of Vatican City is part of the Mons Vaticanus, and of the adjacent former Vatican Fields where St Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and museums were built, along with various other buildings. The area was part of the Roman rione of Borgo until 1929. Being separated from the city, on the west bank of the Tiber river, the area was an outcrop of the city that was protected by being included within the walls of Leo IV (847–55), and later expanded by the current fortification walls, built under Paul III (1534–49), Pius IV (1559–65) and Urban VIII (1623–44).
When the Lateran Treaty of 1929 that gave the state its present form was being prepared, the boundaries of the proposed territory were influenced by the fact that much of it was all but enclosed by this loop. For some tracts of the frontier, there was no wall, but the line of certain buildings supplied part of the boundary, and for a small part of the frontier a modern wall was constructed.
The territory includes St Peter's Square, distinguished from the territory of Italy only by a white line along the limit of the square, where it touches Piazza Pio XII. St Peter's Square is reached through the Via della Conciliazione which runs from the Tiber River to St Peter's. This grand approach was constructed by Benito Mussolini after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty.
According to the Lateran Treaty, certain properties of the Holy See that are located in Italian territory, most notably Castel Gandolfo and the major basilicas, enjoy extraterritorial status similar to that of foreign embassies. These properties, scattered all over Rome and Italy, house essential offices and institutions necessary to the character and mission of the Holy See. Castel Gandolfo and the named basilicas are patrolled internally by police agents of Vatican City-State and not by Italian police. St Peter's Square is ordinarily policed jointly by both.
The politics of Vatican City takes place in an absolute elective monarchy, in which the head of the Roman Catholic Church takes power. The Pope exercises principal legislative, executive, and judicial power over the State of Vatican City (an entity distinct from the Holy See), which is a rare case of a non-hereditary monarchy.
Vatican City is currently the only widely recognised independent state that has not become a member of the Organization of Nations. The Holy See, which is distinct from Vatican City-State, has permanent observer status with all the rights of a full member except for a vote in the ON General Assembly.
The government of Vatican City has a unique structure. The Pope is the sovereign of the state. Legislative authority is vested in the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City-State, a body of cardinals appointed by the Pope for five-year periods. Executive power is in the hands of the President of that commission, assisted by the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary. The state's foreign relations are entrusted to the Holy See's Secretariat of State and diplomatic service. Nevertheless, the pope has full and absolute executive, legislative and judicial power over Vatican City. He is currently the only absolute monarch in Europe.
There are specific departments that deal with health, security, telecommunications, etc
The Cardinal Camerlengo presides over the Apostolic Camera to which is entrusted the administration of the property and the protection of the temporal rights of the Holy See during a papal vacancy. Those of the Vatican State remain under the control of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. Acting with three other cardinals chosen by lot every three days, one from each order of cardinals (cardinal bishop, cardinal priest, and cardinal deacon), he in a sense performs during that period the functions of head of state. All the decisions these four cardinals take must be approved by the College of Cardinals as a whole.
The nobility that was closely associated with the Holy See at the time of the Papal States continued to be associated with the Papal Court after the loss of these territories, generally with merely nominal duties (see Papal Master of the Horse, Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, Hereditary officers of the Roman Curia, Black Nobility). They also formed the ceremonial Noble Guard. In the first decades of the existence of the Vatican City-State, executive functions were entrusted to some of them, including that of Delegate for the State of Vatican City (now denominated President of the Commission for Vatican City). But with the motu proprio Pontificalis Domus of 28 March 1968, Pope Paul VI abolished the honorary positions that had continued to exist until then, such as Quartermaster General and Master of the Horse.