Vatican: the heart of the Catholic faith


Main facts:

  • Capital city: Vatican City

  • Language(s): Italian, Latin

  • Currency: Euro, EUR

  • Population: 1,000

  • Timezone: UTC+1

  • Main religion: Catholicism (100%)

  • Standard of living (subjectively): high

Top 10 interesting places and activities:

  • Call the Vatican by rail

  • Enjoy art in the halls of the Vatican Museums

  • Visit all the Vatican Museums for free

  • See the Renaissance masterpiece of St. Peter's Basilica

  • Climb to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and take a look at the Vatican and the surrounding Rome

  • Take a look into the Sistine Chapel

  • Admire the library at the Apostolic Palace

  • Take a stroll through the courtyards of Pini, Belvedere and the Square

  • Relax at St. Peter's Square

  • Walk around the walls of the Vatican fortress

Approximate costs (person/day):

~€ 8-40

~€ 1-2

~€ 7-14

~€ 7-20

Sights map of the Vatican City

Walk around the Vatican City

The history of the Vatican City is inextricably linked with the history of the Holy See - the main governing organization of the Catholic faith in the world. Its history began in 326 AD, when Christianity was equalized in rights with other religions, and the first basilica was erected at the mythical burial place of the crucified St. Peter. Under the rule of Roman emperor Constantine the Great, the Catholic Church received the right to own property and have its own army and treasury, since the emperor converted to Christianity and transferred the entire Roman Empire to it. After that, the Papal States began to receive a lot of lands and wealth from many faithful philanthropists as a “gift”, and also hired its own Swiss Guard, as a result of which it gained very great influence and many territories in Central Italy.

However, the struggle for political influence in Italy and the Holy Roman Empire often led to scandals and killings of the heads of the Papal States, and numerous gifts and agreements turned into betrayals and terminations on both sides. Only after the loss of the influence of the Franks on Italy did the papal cardinals manage to consolidate power in these lands and gain full independence. But the victory was short-lived, and after a few years, problems with domestic politics in the Papal States led to a series of changes in its heads, poverty and endless military conflicts with neighbors. Once, because of this, the Papal See even moved for some time from Rome to French Avignon, where the Papal Palace now stands.

Over the following centuries, the Papal States sought to form secular power in the annexed lands, however, frequent hostility with various Italian principalities, France and Germany did not allow it to be strengthened. In addition, the protectionist inheritance of land to their relatives did not add authority to the papal cardinals. During the Reformation, a huge outflow of believers from the Catholic faith followed, and during the Napoleonic Wars France captured most of Italy and forced the Papal States to cede most of its lands. The authority of the Holy See was weakening and weakening. Ultimately, when Napoleon created the Italian state, all the lands of the Papal States were annexed, and the secular state of Catholics ceased to exist. At the end of the 19th century there was only a small fortress on the Vatican hill, where the Pope managed to hide from his opponents and received his symbolic freedom. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Roman Question was settled by the creation of an independent city-state of the Vatican with an area of ​​44 hectares, which it has preserved to this day. The Lateran Treaty between the Papal See and the Mussolini government played a significant role in the formation of the Vatican as a state. As a result, the Vatican today is a kind of "political refuge" for the leadership of the Catholic world, and performs purely symbolic functions to ensure the work of the Holy See.

The Vatican is a microstate in the very center of Rome that realizes the interests of the Pope and the Catholic clergy. However, millions of tourists visit it not for the sake of acquaintance with the religious past of the Holy See (although there are some), but for the countless riches and magnificent heritage of the eras of Ancient Rome and Renaissance, which today are exhibited in the Vatican Museums. They amaze with their wealth and sophistication, presenting incredible masterpieces to even the most sophisticated art historians.

There are not many places in the Vatican that you can see with your own eyes besides the museums and St. Peter's Basilica. However, do not despair, because even to visit all the museums you need a whole day! To begin with, you will have to defend a huge queue of tourists and pilgrims visiting the Vatican every day (therefore it is better to arrive early in the morning), but then admire the huge number of halls with incredibly beautiful exhibits, bas-reliefs and paintings that you want to enjoy for a very long time. In the Vatican Museums it is worth spending a minimum of a whole day, so be sure to take food with you - inside it will be incredibly expensive, and contemplation of the beautiful always awakens the appetite. An interesting fact: the last Sunday of every month from 09.00 to 12.30 you can get to all the Vatican museums completely for free (otherwise 20 euros per person on a normal day), but for this you need to take a queue of hours at 8 o'clock in the morning, otherwise you just do not have time to go inside before noon.