Facts about Vatican City

20 Facts about Vatican City

Here are some interesting facts about Vatican City which were chosen and researched especially for kids.

vaticancity flag

1. Vatican City is a tiny country in Europe. Vatican City is the world's smallest independent state. The country is located as an enclave inside the city of Rome, the capital city of Italy. 

2. Vatican City became an independent country in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty signed by Pope Pius XI (eleven) and is a city-state that is led by the Pope who is also the bishop of Rome.

3. The national flag of Vatican City is bicolour. The two colours are gold and silver, however, often the colours are shown simply as yellow and white. The emblem on the silver or white part on the right side of the flag shows the Papal coat of arms. Papal means 'of the Pope'

vatican city view cupolaView from cupola of St Peter's Basilica

3. The national holiday is the election date of the latest Pope. Pope Francis was elected on 13 March 2013 and as such 13 March is currently the national holiday.

A new Pope is usually only elected once a Pope has died as popes are elected for life. Pope Benedict XVI (sixteen) resigned in February 2013 due to illness and old age. His resignation was the first resignation since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII (twelve) left his office.

4. Pope Francis, born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936, is the first Pope or head of state of Vatican City who is from the Americas and the first coming from the Southern Hemisphere! Pope Francis was a Jesuit superior from Argentina and the archbishop of Buenos Aires before we was elected. He choose his papal name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi.

vatican city pope francis ed riccardo de lucaPope Francis - image by Riccardo de Luca

Facts about Vatican City

5. About one thousand people live and work in Vatican City. These persons, however, come from many countries and are citizens of many nations. About 135 of all residents work with the Swiss Guard while most other people are clergy or work for the Roman Catholic church.

Some say only about half of all people who work daily in Vatican City live outside of the tiny state. Most nuns and priests live in the surrounding suburbs of Rome.

6. All residents of Vatican City are Roman Catholics. The Catholic church is the world's largest church of Christian faith. There are about 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide.

7. Of the about 1,000 people living and working in Vatican City only about 150 are females.

8. Vatican City does not have an army, but the Swiss Guard are there for the protection of the Pope and the Papal Palace.

swissguard_dropoflight_sskSwiss Guard - image by drop of light/shutterstock.com

The members of the Swiss Guard are all young Catholic men between the ages of 18 and 30 years who are from Switzerland where they also were part of the Swiss army.

9. There are special passports for members of the Holy See, that are granted only for the length of the service or diplomatic appointment with the Holy See. Vatican City passports are granted to residents of the small state and only about 500 people have a Vatican City passport.

However, there are no border posts or passport control along the roughly 3.5 km/ 2.1. miles long border with Italy. Visitors have to pass security checks when entering the Basilica and there are special security guards also visible on the main square which is open to visitors from all over the world. Most parts of the Papal residence and many buildings in Vatican City are closed to the public.

10. Vatican City does not have an official language, however, Latin is used in most official documents of the Holy See.

The main languages spoken in Vatican City state are Italian, English, French and German. 

Masses led by the Pope are usually read in Latin, however, more and more Italian prevails also in masses held in Vatican City.

The masses celebrated in the Basilica as well as the open-air masses in St Peter's Square at Easter attract thousands of visitors from around the world. 

The famous Urbi et Orbi blessing after the Easter Mass is usually given by the Pope in over 50 languages.

vatican city easter mass ed aj olnesEaster Mass in Rome - image by A.J. Olnes

Vatican City Facts | Name

11. The official name of Vatican City is Status Civitatis Vaticanae, which is Latin and means 'State of Vatican City'. The Latin name is used in official documents of the Holy See.

12. Vatican City is named after Vatican Hill. The original name 'Vaticano' comes from the Etruscan settlement that was located here and called Vatica and the region was later referred to by the Romans as 'Vaticano'.

Facts about Vatican City

13. The most famous building of Vatican City is the Saint Peter's Basilica, built between 1506 and 1626. This basilica is the largest church in the world by internal measurements. The cupola of the basilica is 138 m/ 453 ft high and this is the highest building of the city-state.

vatican city san pietroVatican's City's Saint Peter's Basilica

14. St Peter's square is the main piazza, which means "square" in Italian, and is located in front of the St Peter's Basilica. The Vatican obelisk marks the center of the square that is surrounded by colonnades that are four rows of columns deep.

The square and church are named after Saint Peter who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and is referred to as the first Pope.

The tall ancient Egyptian obelisk that is 25.5 m/ 84 ft high  acts as a huge sundial.

st peter obelisk

15. The Sistine Chapel which is part of the Pope's residential palace is one of the most famous attractions in Vatican City. The chapel got its name from Pope Sixtus IV (six). This Pope had the chapel built in 1480. There are many majestic frescos in the chapel that is known for the ceiling frescos.

The Sistine Chapel was originally built to hold the conclave, which is the meeting of the cardinals, who vote in there for a new Pope. The first Pope elected there was Pope Alexander VI in 1492.

There is a special chimney in the Sistine Chapel that will show black smoke when a Pope has died and white smoke once a new Pope has been elected.

vaticancity_sistinechapelCeiling and wall frescos of the Sistine Chapel

16. The Vatican museums are attached to the Papal Palace. The museums display a massive collection of more than 20,000 works of arts gathered by the Catholic Church. Amongst these are some of the most famous Roman sculptures and statues and stunning Renaissance works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Rafael.

More than 5 million visitors view the exhibits of the museums every year. Amongst the highlights of the museums are:

sistinechapel_creationofadamMichelangelo's masterpiece 'The creation of Adam' is part of the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel - image by Gush Photography
vatican city pieta ed photofiresMichaelangelo's 'Pietà' - Mary holding Jesus after he was taken down from the cross
vatican city school of athens ed Vasilii LRafael's 'School of Athens' - image by Vasilii L is part of the Palace of the Pope
vatican city galleryofmaps ed red feniksGallery of Maps - image by red feniks
vatican city laocoonAgesander's Laocoon sculpture

16. The gardens of the Vatican are huge (57 acres) and take up almost half of all the land area of Vatican City (121 acres or 49 hectares).

vatican city gardensVatican Gardens

There are many fountains, statues and sculptures in the Vatican gardens. The massive planet sculpture titled 'Sphere within Sphere' was created in 1990 by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro and is one of many other spheres such as the ones in Dublin/ Ireland or New York/ USA. 

vatican city globe ed astudioSphere within Sphere - image by AStudio

Facts about Vatican City

18. Vatican City's economy is based on tourism. There is a smaller printing and mint that supplies primarily museums and souvenir shops.

19. There is a Vatican City television station and a radio broadcaster 'Radio Vaticana', a Vatican City newspaper 'L'Osservatore Romano' as well as a special Vatican News site that offer special news about the Pope's audiences as well as international Catholic news.

vatican city coins2-Euro coins from Vatican City

20. The currency used in Vatican City is the Euro. However, coins are minted with Vatican City emblems. Special postage stamps are also available.

Last but not least:
Vatican City Facts for Kids

Did you know that the Catholic Church is the world's largest provider of non-governmental education and healthcare?

The Pope is a powerful man who promotes love and friendship across the religious groups all over the world and vocal in addressing injustice and violence as well as a lack of education and compassion across the world. In his Ramadan message he shares his wish for a peaceful world with the Muslim brothers and sisters:

"We cannot prevent and counter the culture of hatred and, instead promote a culture of love and friendship, without a sound education for future generations in all the spaces where they are formed: in the family, at school, in places of worship, and on social media."

Facts about Vatican City

Sources for Facts about Vatican City page:

  • Jimmy Kennedy. "Vatican Flag." VaticanCityTips. 1 December 2021. Last accessed 28 March 2023
  • Central Intelligence Agency. "Holy See-Vatican City." WorldFactBook. Last updated 22 March 2023. Last accessed 28 March 2023
  • Elyssa Bernard. "Easter celebrations in Rome 2023". Romewise. 14 December 2022. Last accessed 29 March 2023

Image Credits on Facts about Vatican City: photo stock from shutterstock and wikicommons, if not otherwise stated.

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