The History Of The Vatican

The History Of The Vatican

An ecclesiastical state, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the smallest state in the world by area and population. The State of the Vatican City, as it is officially known, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. If you can bear the large numbers of visitors the Vatican is a fascinating place to visit.

The Vatican is home to one of the greatest collections of art on the planet, displayed throughout the Vatican Museums. The Vatican is also a place where one can behold the true genius of Michelangelo in the form of his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. However before we look at visiting the Vatican, let’s first take a brief look at the history of the Vatican.

Mons Vaticanus

The Vatican itself is located on a small hill on the west bank of the River Tiber - it is this specific geographic location which gives the Vatican its name. During the times of the Roman Republic the area consisted of marshy fields around Mons Vaticanus. Starting in the 4th Century, in order to better control Papal states, those who would go on to form the Vatican began to take control of territory around Rome, including Mons Vaticanus. So the name ‘The Vatican’ is not related to religion but instead comes from a Latin place name.

Lateran Treaties & Recognition of Statehood

In 1929 the Vatican’s independent sovereignty was officially recognised through the signing of the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy. The Lateran Treaty stated that sovereignty would be exercised by the pope, who on his election would have absolute power within the Vatican City.

Architecture of the Vatican City

Funded primarily through the patronage of Catholics around the world, the buildings that make up the Vatican City are nothing short of spectacular. The Vatican’s main buildings were constructed and then added to, over the Centuries.

The most impressive of the buildings is St. Peter’s Basilica, which is one of the most imposing buildings in Rome let alone the Vatican. What is now St. Peter’s Basilica was originally a much smaller church built in the 4th Century, however the building we see today was consecrated in 1626 after undergoing 120 years of renovations and other works. If you visit the Vatican it is possible to climb up the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Your effort will be rewarded with superb views over Rome’s red rooftops. Inside St. Peter’s Basilica is where you will find the only sculpture that Michelangiolo signed, the world-famous La Pietà.

Aside from religious reasons, what draws many visitors to the Vatican are the exquisite works of art. Join thousands of others in appreciating the genius of Michelangelo whilst exploring the Sistine Chapel - certainly the most in-demand of the Vatican museums. Having been requested in the late 15th Century by Pope Sixtus IV the Sistine Chapel is a grand example of papal patronage during the Renaissance period. Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes and Last Judgement cover an area of over 800 square metres!

Visiting the Vatican

If you are planning a trip to Rome and would like to explore the Vatican Museums, we can help. From advice on visiting the Vatican, such as the strict dress codes for certain buildings (no miniskirts, shorts or bare shoulders) to the best times to visit.

We also offer guided and private tours of the Vatican and its associated museums. Our Skip the Line Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica Tour is the best way to learn about the history of the Vatican and the many treasures located within the city state.

Get in touch with our friendly team to start planning your trip to the Vatican today!