Brief History

On the west bank of the Tiber River lies the Vatican City (Holy See), an independent state within the city of Rome. Vatican City was established in 1929, after the unification of Italy. The Lateran Treaty signed by Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, gave the Pope full sovereignty over the area which includes St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. It is the world’s smallest independent sovereign entity covering just 44ha. Vatican City became the central governing body of the Catholic Church, where the authority of the Church is through the Pope, who resides in Vatican City.

The Pope is ‘chief bishop’ and has supreme jurisdiction over the Church. The Pope is advised by other high ranking members of the Church who also reside in Vatican City. The Church has a duty to obey the instructions that are issued by the Pope or his delegated authority. The Vatican is the palace of the Popes and has been their residence since 1377.

Things You May Not Know

Vatican City is the world’s smallest independent sovereign State.

Vatican City has its own currency and issues its own postage stamps. You can use Vatican currency throughout Italy and the Republic of San Marino due to special treaties.

S.C.V. appears on the number plate of vehicles registered within Vatican City. S.C.V. is short for, Stato Citta’ del Vaticano (Vatican City State). Evidently the locals of Rome have a different interpretation, ‘Se Christe vidice’, which interpreted means “If Christ could see”! The Pope’s number plate reads SCV1.

There are over 20 popemobiles around the world and six residing at the Vatican. The first armoured popemobile was a Land Rover specially modified in 1982. Popemobiles have since been made by Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, Toyota and Mercedes Benz. The popemobile weighs about 4 tons.

The shortest reign of any Pope was Stephen II, who lasted only four days after his election in 752.

Here is a piece of trivia, the Vatican’s web site is powered by 3 host computers named after the archangels; Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

St Peter’s Basilica took 120 years to complete, with many of Italy’s greatest Renaissance and Baroque architects adding their expertise.

A papal rumour which has been circulating for years, claims the Papal Tiara has the words Vicarius Filii Dei (Latin for “Vicar of the Son of God”) written on its side and when the words are enumerated they add up to 666 (the number of the Antichrist).

The word pontiff (Pope) comes from the Latin word “pontifex”, meaning bridge maker. One theory suggests that in Roman times the responsibility for the up-keep of the Sublicio Bridge, which crossed over the sacred Tiber River, was given to the local priests. The priests were given the title pontiflex, “ponte” meaning bridge and “fex” meaning to make.

Papaphobia is to have a fear of the Pope.