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Vatican City: The Pope’s Nation

History says that when Italy was wondering about making Rome its capital, several popes were killed, and a religious conflict was about to arrive. To not delve into such a disaster, the then-prime minister of Italy, Mr. Benito Mussulini, and Pope Pius XI signed the 1929 Lateran Treaty. This gave Vatican City the status of a sovereign and neutral country without any external influence, with all of its power concentrated on the Pope. Its government is an absolute monarchy, and the Pope is the sovereign of the state.

Why the Vatican?

The name ‘Vatican’ in The Vatican City was derived from the Vatican Hill, also known as Mons Vaticanus in Latin and Colle Vaticano in Italian, present over its geographical area near the Tiber River, which came from an Etruscan settlement of that area in the past. In contrast, another theory comes from a famous writer, Varro who said that the name was derived from the God of Childbirth, Vaticanus who made babies cry after they were born.

Vatican City

Let us explore some interesting secrets of the Vatican City with 15 such mind blowing facts!

Here is 15 Interesting Facts About the Vatican City

1. The World’s Smallest Country

Situated in Italy over just 109 acres, Vatican City is a city-state i.e., a country within a city, and hence the smallest country in the world.

2. The Smallest Population in the World

Consisting of around just 510 permanent residents, Vatican City has also earned the title of  the world’s least populous country in the world. Ever wondered, why it is so? Well, the answer lies in  citizenship.

Yes! One can get citizenship here only based upon their official employment at the church, which is subject to approval by the Pope. This means it can be revoked at any time based on his discretion or if your employment ends. This system of citizenship is known as ‘jus Officii’.

3. Peak Crime Rate.

Owing to its minimal population, the city has become a hub for petty offenses like pickpocketing, theft, etc., a large chunk of which is committed by millions of tourists visiting the place. The rate also soars due to the slow military operations, which mainly focus on the safety of the Pope.

4. The World’s Biggest Church.

Constructed for over 120 years, St. Peter’s Basilica Church is renowned for being the world’s largest for its capacity and interior and has been called, the ‘ornament of the earth’.  This Catholic shrine honors St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome and the head of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. One of the interesting facts about Vatican City also contends that he died as a martyr and refused to be nailed in the same way as Jesus, for he did not find himself worthy enough to die like him.


5. Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 1984, Vatican City was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its rich culture, history, and marvelous architecture gave this unique status to itself. The Sistine Chapel, St Basilica Church, The Obelisk, St Peter’s Square, and its museums filled with Renaissance artifacts and frescoes are preserved and hold universal values.

6. It has its own time zone.

This small state operates in its own time zone, UTC+1, to show its independence and autonomy. The time zone is 5 minutes ahead of the European Time Zone (CET). Also, its northern part experiences one hour behind time compared to the southern part.

7. It has an escape passage for Popes to flee during danger.

One of the most interesting facts about Vatican City is that Pasetto di Borgo was created as an 800-meter-long passage during Alexander VI’s papacy. Among various Vatican secrets, one tells us that from Charles VIII’s invasion to US bombardments over Rome during World War II, this passage has saved many Popes and let them escape from Vatican City to Castel Sant’Angelo.

8. It believes in Extraterrestrial bodies.

Earlier in 2008, the Vatican’s belief in God and aliens was so strong that they held a conference just to discuss their existence for their Catholic theology studies. The Vatican’s chief astronomer has even said that it is okay to believe in them. One whistleblower from the Pentagon, the intelligence agency of the United States has said that the Vatican was involved in the US’s first encounter with a UFO.


9. It has conducted millions of Exorcisms.

Father Gabriele Amorth, himself claimed to have performed more than 100,000 exorcisms, with 60,000 during his tenure as the chief exorcist of the Vatican City. The Vatican City now also gives courses to priests from all over the world who want to learn exorcism. Did you know that the 2023 Netflix horror movie, The Pope’s Exorcist is based on real-life memoirs of Father Amorth?

10. Michelangelo sculpted La Pietà at 19.

The world-famous sculpture and tourist attraction, Madonna della Pietà, was built by Michelangelo who beautifully depicted the Virgin Mary’s sorrow, while she held the dead Jesus in her lap. This classical masterpiece was crafted by Michelangelo at a very young age, depicting his artistic intellectuality. It is also his only autographed work after he heard someone say he could not have built that. After that, Michelangelo never signed on to his work again and regretted his prideful decision.

11. A dead man was put on Trial here.

It is said that in 897 AD, there was a Pope named Formosus, who was put on trial 7 months after his death by his successor, Pope Stephen VI, and was even found guilty. The Crime? He supported Carinthia against Spoleto, who became the future king of Italy, and hence was made to stand trial. This event is famously known as Cadaver Synod or ‘Corpse Trial’.

12.Vaticans Consume the most Wine in the World.

The Vatican City and its residents sip more wine than anywhere else in the world. On average, one resident drinks 74 liters of wine every year. But why so? The fact that everybody there mostly dines together with the community and has easy access to duty-free wine, makes them consume wine more than any place.

13. The Swiss guards are among the world’s oldest military.

Established by Pope Julius II, the Swiss guards have existed here since 1506 and wear colorful uniforms. They guard the Pope and now even contain non-Swiss people who are also considering women’s recruitment opportunities

14. Vatican owns one telescope in Arizona, USA.

Also known as the Vatican Technology Telescope (VATT), it was kept in Arizona in 1933 due to pollution reasons. It has been observing the stars for more than 30 years with a partnership between the Vatican City and the University of Arizona. Its manufacture took multi million-dollar private donations and is located at Mt. Graham in the eastern part of the state.

15. The City has no Taxes

The city has no statute to tax its citizens and mainly runs through donations, investments, stamp sales, and tourism, and gets subsidies from Italy on water supply with no taxing statute applying over this city-state. This makes all the items duty-free with no restrictions and customs fees on import and export.


Vatican City is indeed full of secrets and has a mind blowing history with so much more yet to unfold. Also,  Vatican City attractions are regarded as worldwide inviting a large influx of tourists. With its unique culture and beliefs, it is still technologically advanced and serves its religion with utmost priority. We hope this article has enlightened you about some aspects of the Vatican City that you did not know and led you to discover some interesting facts about the Vatican City.

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