18 Things You Didn’t Know About Vatican

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It’s easy for people to forget that Vatican City isn’t Rome, as there is no clear border between them. This tiny state is completely ensconced in Rome . However, the richness of Vatican City is well-worth a day.

I’m assuming that there are details about Vatican that you already know. But before you go to St. Peter’s Basilica, let me tell you some more interesting facts. This list is likely to contain at least one thing that Rome’s repeat visitors didn’t know.

Learn more in my Vatican City Guide

  • Vatican City, the smallest independent country on Earth, is perhaps the most well-known fact. Do you know how tiny it really is? Vatican City measures just 0.17 miles squared – that’s less than 109 acres. Monaco, a city-state located just outside Nice, France, is also very small. However, Vatican City would fit within Monaco more than 4.5x. The difference between Vatican City and Russia is astounding. It would fit in Russia 38,833,341 more times than Vatican City.
  • However, you cannot get a Vatican stamp. You can get your passport stamped in some other small cities-states around the globe by paying a small fee at a post office. But that is not available in Vatican City. This may disappoint some stamp collectors but it means that you don’t need to bring your passport to the Vatican when you visit Rome.
  • St. St. The 15 largest churches are identified by markings on the floor at St. Peter’s Basilica. They would all fit into St. Peter’s.
  • You can get passport stamps at a local post office, but you will need to visit the Vatican City’s own post office. It is well-known for being more reliable than Italy’s post service. If you are a postcard sender, take your postcards to the Vatican. Because they have their own stamps, stamp collectors will want stop by the Vatican post office. Radio broadcasts in 47 languages are also available from the Vatican’s own radio station. It has more than 200 journalists who report from 61 different countries.
  • The Vatican City has its own euro coins. All countries that use euro currency have their own coins with unique designs on the one side. This allows you to identify which country each coin is from. The Vatican’s euro coins are no exception. They bear the image of the current pope. It can be difficult to actually get hold of one of these coins, even if your money is going to Vatican City. These coins are very popular among coin collectors and can often be sold for much more than their actual value.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica is more than 300 years old, and was dedicated in 1626. It was built on the same site as the 4th-century St. Peter’s Basilica. Both churches mark the place where St. Peter is believed to have been buried. Since early Christianity, the Papacy has been based in Rome and surrounding areas. However, Vatican City has not been an independent country since 1929 when the Vatican was created by the Holy See and the Italian government.
  • The Sistine Chapel chimney, which everyone observes during a papal conclave in order to determine if the smoke is white or black, is not a permanent fixture. It is installed prior to a conclave and then removed.
  • The names of the popes were kept private. We are used to hearing him use a different name, his papal name, and not being called by the birth name. This wasn’t always the case. Before 1555, popes used their birth names even after becoming pope. Pope Marcellus II was the last pope to do so. Interestingly, the most popular papal names include: John (21 popes), Gregory (16 pontes), Benedict (15 pontes), Clement (14) popes), Innocent (13) popes), Leo (13popes), and Benedict (15 popes).
  • Vatican City is UNESCO’s only country that has an entire country listed on its List of World Heritage Sites. Italy has the most UNESCO sites in Italy, but this is not all of the UNESCO-related trivia in Italy. The entire Vatican City is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites List. It’s also the only listing that includes an entire country.
  • The Vatican Museums receive an average of 25,000. – You can’t go wrong with the vast collection of extraordinary art in the Vatican Museums. The current Vatican Museums, which were established in 1506, saw a record 5 million visitors in 2011. This is enough to fill London’s Wembley Stadium, which holds 90,000. It’s more than 55 times full. While some days may be busier than others; on average, 25,000 people visit Vatican Museums each day. This is enough to justify booking a guided tour and avoiding the long ticket queue.
  • The Vatican Museums have more than 120,000 artifacts. Another reason to book a guided tour is the incredible number of masterpieces found in its 54 rooms. Although only 70,000 of the 120,000 pieces of art are on display, it would take you more than 80 days to see every piece. It can make the difference between loving the Vatican Museums or thinking they are boring. Knowing what to concentrate on and what to ignore is key.
  • Italy wins race among pope-producing nations. It is not surprising that the majority of popes have been from Italy. It is unlikely that Italy’s impressive lead in this standings will be beaten anytime soon. Italian popes have numbered 196, with 15 coming from France, 11 from Greece and five from Germany. The remaining popes are from Syria, which has a total of 5 popes. Other countries with only one pope include: Argentina, Croatia, Israel (whose pope is Saint Peter), the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.
  • The ceremonial chief of Vatican military is the Pope. You might have seen the colourfully-costumed guards at the Vatican. They may be the Swiss Guards. This elite force, which is technically the Vatican’s military and charged with protecting Pope Francis in a manner similar to U.S. Secret Service protecting the President. The Commander in Chief of U.S. Military forces is the president, and the Pope is the Ceremonial chief of the Vatican military. The Swiss Guard soldiers are indeed Swiss, as the name suggests. Technically, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is the division of the Swiss Guards which is stationed at Vatican City. Other branches have served European courts. Since 1506, they have been guards at the Vatican. Guards must be military-trained and Catholic single and male. The Swiss Guards are very serious about their work and will not pose for photos with tourists.
  • Michelangelo didn’t design the uniforms for Swiss Guard. It sounds funny and fun. Brightly striped uniforms in yellow, red and blue are worn with large, standing white collars, dramatic poofed sleeves (with an ruffle at the wrist), puffy pants with coordinated stockings underneath and a black or blu beret. Although the uniforms were inspired by Renaissance designs, the modern design dates back to the early 1900s.
  • Vatican City is home to citizens but not a single person was born there. The population of Vatican City was 836 at July 2012. However, citizenship in Vatican City doesn’t depend on one being born there. In fact, there is no hospital in Vatican City so nobody is born there. Vatican citizenship is instead based on “jus oficii”, which means someone has been appointed to work in the Holy See. This citizenship ends with the end of an appointment. These Vatican citizens receive Vatican passports, but no Vatican passport stamps.
  • 78 ex-popes are now saints. It is not surprising that so many popes were made saints. 49 of the 78 ex-popes who are now saints are the first 49 popes. This is through Pope (now Saint), Julius I who was pope between 337-352AD. 11 others have been “beatified”, which means blessed, and this is the final step in the process of canonization before sainthood. Pope John Paul II beatified over 1,340 people, more than all the popes combined from 1590 to today. Pope John Paul II was beatified just six years after his death.
  • It is possible that the youngest pope was 11 when he was elected. There has been some debate among church historians over who was the youngest and how old he was. Some believe that Pope Benedict IX was only 18 at the time he became pope in 1032. Others now think he was more like 11-12. Some believe he was closer to 20. This would make Pope John XII, who was 18 in 1995, the youngest pope. Comparatively, Pope Clement X was 79 at the time he was elected pope. Pope Leo XIII was 93 at his death in 1903.
  • Vatican City has the highest crime rates on Earth. – This is technically because of its low population. Its crime rate is estimated at 1.5 crimes per person. It doesn’t account for the millions of tourists who visit Vatican City every year, but they aren’t included in its population. Therefore, this “highest crime rates” designation is quite absurd. The huge number of tourists who visit Vatican City every day makes it a hot spot for pickpockets. So make sure you keep your valuables safe. (May I suggest a Money Belt?
  • Guided Tours of the Vatican City

    These are affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small commission if you book one these tours. However, it will not cost you any extra.

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    4 Responses to “18 Things You Don’t Know About Vatican”

  • Denise Mayer has the following:

    It was fascinating as usual. I don’t have passport stamps so I will probably be visiting the post office. [It is proof that I was there..lol] Many thanks for this information. It was very enjoyable.

  • Robin Paquet says:

    We are grateful for your assistance. You are an amazing source of information, as always!

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