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Surrounded entirely by Italy’s capital city of Rome, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. It sits in central west part of Rome, entirely enclosed by a 3.2 km (2.0 mi) wall, constructed to protect the Pope from any attacks. The Pope inhabits the Papal Palace, next to St. Peter’s Square, and conducts all official business from here.

The Vatican City is a remnant of the Papal States making up roughly 17,000 sq mi (44,030 sq km) in 1859.  During Italy’s unification in the decade of 1860 to 1870 much of the land came under Italy’s control. By Italian law, most of the Pope’s secular power was terminated in 1871 and Papacy’s lands were limited to the Vatican, Lateran Palaces and villa of Castel Gandolfo. All successive popes rejected this pact. In February 1929, Italy and the Vatican signed a treaty instituting autonomy of the Holy See.

The Vatican and the Holy See are two separate entities. The Holy See is the Episcopal see of Rome that has roots in Christian times, whereas the Vatican City State only came into being in 1929. While the Vatican City State is an internationally recognized territory, it is the Holy See that actually carries out all diplomatic relations on behalf of the Vatican. Due to space limitations, The Vatican City State does not host any foreign embassies; all embassies to the Holy See are situated in Rome. 

Some properties of the Holy See, as agreed to in the treaty of 1929, are actually located on Italian land. The most famous of these include Castel Gandolfo and major basilicas. All such properties just house offices and departments needed run the mission of the Holy See.

Fast Facts:

Official Name:  State of the Vatican City

Capital:  None

Government:  Holy Sea, with Pope as its head

Ethnic Groups:  Italian, Swiss

Languages:  Latin, Italian

Religion:  Roman Catholic

Currency:  Euro

Land Area:  0.44 Sq.km (0.17 sq. mi.) 

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