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The Holy See
The State of the Vatican City is the smallest state in the world and is a non-hereditary landlocked sovereign city state whose territory consists of a walled enclave with the city of Rome.
The Vatican City lies just beyond the right bank of the Tiber River on a slight rise, part of the ancient Montes Vaticani,(the Vatican Hill), on which several villas were built in pre-Christian times.
The Vatican City is a non-hereditary elected monarchy headed by the Pope and covers a territory of roughly 109 acres and is partly surrounded by walls and stretches into St. Peter's Square as far as a strip of travertine stone that corresponds with the furthest end of the colonnade. This marks the boundary of the State and edge of the Square which is normally open to everyone. Even though it is part of the Vatican City the Square is usually patrolled by members of the Italian Police Force.
There are five entrances to the Vatican City, each of them guarded by the Pontifical Swiss Guards and by the Gendarmes Corps of Vatican City State. The entrance to the Vatican Museums is on Viale Vaticano, not far from Piazza del Risorgimento. Because the Vatican City is so small several departments and offices belonging to the Holy See are situated in buildings around Rome and according to the Lateran Treaty these buildings enjoy the same status recognised by international law as embassies and foreign diplomatic missions abroad. The areas occupied by these buildings are commonly known as extraterritorial.
The Vatican City has a population of around 900 made up of Italians, Swiss and other nationalities and includes High Ranking Dignitaries, priests, nuns and a work force of 3000 lay workers who reside outside the Vatican City. The conferral or loss of citizenship authorisation to live inside the Vatican City and formalise for entering the territory are governed by specific representative issued according to the Lateran Treaty.
The Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy and the Head of State is the Pope who holds full legislature, executive and judicial power and is elected by cardinals who are under 80 years of age and becomes the Sovereign of the Vatican City the moment he accepts his election as Pope.
The whole area is under the protection of the Hague Convention of May 14 1954 and in 1984 the Vatican City registered as a world cultural and natural heritage site in terms of UNESCO convention of Nov 16 1972 which guarantees protection of such sites.
The basic law is the Code of Canon Law and the day-to-day running is in the hands of appointed officers who oversee the Curia,(meaning court),there are no political partners. The Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See(Sancta Sedes), and is located in the Apostolic Palace, the Pope´s official residence.
The Vatican City has an up-to-date health care system that draws specialists from around the world, it is also a museum among other things and has a library that is a major source of knowledge about Renaissance and European History. Vehicles registered with SCV plates belong to the Vatican City State and departments of the Holy See and CV plates are the property of Vatican City citizens and individuals who, in agreement with the Italian authorities, are allowed to register their vehicles in the Vatican City.
The Vatican City also mints its own coins which are legal tender in Italy and the European Union to a maximum of one millions euros per year along with their own postage stamps.
The Holy See has been a Sovereign Entity since Medieval times that serves as an ecclesiastical, governmental and administrative capital of the Roman Catholic Church and is physically located within the State of the Vatican City inside Rome with a unique non-traditional economy. The term Holy See refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction and sovereignty vested in the Pope.
The Swiss Guards are a corps of Swiss Soldiers responsible for the safety of the Pope and are often called World's Smallest Army as watchmen for the Vatican City and the Pontifical villa of Castel Gandolfo. Founded in 1506 secured by a treaty under Julius II who at the instigation of Swiss Cardinal Schinner entered into an agreement with the cantons of Zurich and Lucerne in accordance with which these cantons undertook to supply 250 men as bodyguards of the Pope. Since 1870 the number has been reduced to 100 and members of the guard are called Halberdiers and must be Swiss citizens and take the oath in the Latin language.
The Basilica of Saint Peter is the most prominent building inside the Vatican City and is built on the ruins of Old Saint Peter's Basilica. It is one of the holiest sites of Christendom in the Catholic tradition and it is traditionally the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter and many Popes, starting with first one, have been buried here.
Although the Vatican basilica is not the Pope's official seat it is most certainly his principal church, as most Papal ceremonies take place at St. Peter's due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence, and location within the Vatican City walls.
Positioned just below the Renaissance basilica and above Constantine's 4th century basilica, the grotto contain chapels dedicated to various saints and tombs of kings, queens and popes, dating from the 10th century. The holiest place is Peter's tomb, containing the "memory", built in the 4th century by the Emperor Constantine, on the spot were the Apostle's tomb was venerated.
In one of the chapels around the apse is a fresco by the 14th century Roman painter Pietro Cavallini. It is called the Madonna della Bocciata, because of Mary's swollen face. According to an old legend, her face bled because a drunken soldier had thrown a bowl into the holy image after he lost a game of bowls. The monuments to Paul VI (1978) and Pope John Paul II (2005) are also in the grotto.
Saint Peter's Square is located directly in front of St.Peter's Basilica and the open space which lies before the basilica was designed so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the facade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace.
The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet and meditation for the Popes ever since 1279 when Nicholas III moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the new walls, which he had built to protect his residence, he planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium). The event is recorded among other places on a stone plaque which can be viewed in the Sala dei Capitani of the Palazzo dei Conservator on Rome's Capitoline Hill. Created around the hill of Saint Egidio where today can be found the Palazzetto del Belvedere building and the courtyards of the Vatican Museums, this was to be the first Garden in the Vatican.
The Sistine Chapel, built between 1475-1481 by Giovannino de Dolci, is in the Apostolic Palace the Popes official residence and is famed for its architecture fresco-ed throughout by the greatest Renaissance artists including the legendary ceiling by Michelangelo Buonarroti and the conclave at which a new Pope is selected.
The Vatican City is like nowhere you have ever been before. The smallest country in the world is so splendorous and magnificent, with a beauty that is so richly layered that you cannot see it all.
From its cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and marble fountains, to the most amazing buildings in the world, you will not fail to be awestruck, especially when you see the Vatican Palace Guard.