How big is vatican city?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 3, 2024

Introduction to Vatican City

Vatican City, officially known as the Vatican City State, is the smallest independent state in the world both by area and population. It is an enclave within Rome, Italy, and serves as the spiritual and administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church. Despite its small size, the Vatican wields substantial influence through its religious, cultural, and historical significance.

Geographical Size

Vatican City covers an area of approximately 44 hectares, which is equivalent to about 110 acres or 0.17 square miles. To put this into perspective, the entire country is about one-eighth the size of New York's Central Park. The compact size makes it feasible to explore the entire territory on foot within a few hours.

Comparison with Other Microstates

When compared to other microstates, Vatican City is significantly smaller. For example, Monaco covers an area of about 2.02 square kilometers, which is almost 12 times larger than Vatican City. Even Liechtenstein, another small country, is around 160 square kilometers, dwarfing the Vatican in terms of land area.


Vatican City has a population of around 800 people, making it the smallest internationally recognized independent state by population. Of these residents, only about 450 are citizens. The rest are either temporary residents, such as clergy and Swiss Guards, or individuals holding Vatican-issued passports for diplomatic missions.


The population is primarily composed of clergy, including the Pope, cardinals, and members of various religious orders. There are also laypeople who work in various capacities within the Vatican. A significant number of residents are members of the Swiss Guard, the small military force responsible for the Pope's security.

Historical Context

The Vatican's small size is a result of historical and political circumstances. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 established Vatican City as an independent state, resolving the "Roman Question" that had arisen with the unification of Italy in the 19th century. The treaty granted the Vatican its current territory, ensuring its sovereignty and independence.

The Lateran Treaty

The Lateran Treaty was signed between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy on February 11, 1929. It recognized Vatican City as an independent state and compensated the Holy See for the loss of its territories during the unification of Italy. The treaty also established Roman Catholicism as the state religion of Italy, a status that has since been modified by subsequent agreements.

Architecture and Landmarks

Despite its small size, Vatican City is home to some of the world's most iconic landmarks and architectural marvels. These include St. Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, and the Vatican Museums.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica is one of the largest and most significant churches in Christianity. It covers an area of about 5.7 acres and can accommodate up to 60,000 people. The basilica is renowned for its Renaissance architecture, particularly its dome, designed by Michelangelo.

The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums house an extensive collection of art and historical artifacts. Spanning over 7 kilometers of galleries, the museums contain works by artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio, and Leonardo da Vinci. The Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes, is also part of the museum complex.

Administrative Structure

Vatican City operates as an absolute elective monarchy. The Pope is the head of state, wielding supreme legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The governance is carried out through various departments and congregations, collectively known as the Roman Curia.

The Roman Curia

The Roman Curia assists the Pope in the administration of the Catholic Church. It is composed of several congregations, tribunals, and pontifical councils, each responsible for different aspects of church governance. The Secretariat of State is the most important department, handling diplomatic and political affairs.

Security and Defense

Vatican City has its own security forces, including the Swiss Guard and the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps. The Swiss Guard, established in 1506, is responsible for the Pope's personal security. The Vatican Gendarmerie handles general law enforcement and public safety within the city-state.

The Swiss Guard

The Swiss Guard is one of the oldest and most colorful military units in the world. Guard members are required to be Swiss citizens, Catholic, and under the age of 30 at the time of their enlistment. They undergo rigorous training and serve a minimum term of two years.

Vatican Gendarmerie Corps

The Vatican Gendarmerie Corps is responsible for maintaining public order, conducting criminal investigations, and managing traffic within Vatican City. They work closely with Italian law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of the enclave.


Vatican City's economy is unique and largely supported by contributions from Catholics around the world, known as Peter's Pence. Other sources of revenue include museum ticket sales, publication sales, and the issuance of stamps and coins.

Peter's Pence

Peter's Pence is a special collection taken up by Catholic parishes worldwide to support the Pope's charitable activities. This financial contribution plays a crucial role in funding various humanitarian projects and the administrative functions of the Vatican.

Tourism and Merchandise

Tourism is another significant source of revenue for Vatican City. Millions of pilgrims and tourists visit the Vatican each year, generating income through museum ticket sales and the purchase of religious items, books, and souvenirs. The Vatican also issues its own postage stamps, which are highly sought after by collectors.

Unique Aspects

Vatican City has several unique aspects that set it apart from other sovereign states. For instance, it has its own postal system, radio station, and newspaper. The Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, is also noteworthy.

Vatican Postal System

The Vatican Postal System is renowned for its efficiency and reliability. It issues its own stamps, which are popular among philatelists. The postal service operates independently of Italy's postal system and has its own post office within Vatican City.

Vatican Radio

Vatican Radio, established in 1931, broadcasts in multiple languages and reaches audiences worldwide. It plays a crucial role in disseminating the Pope's messages and providing news coverage on Vatican activities.

Vatican Observatory

The Vatican Observatory, founded in 1582, is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. It conducts scientific research and hosts international conferences on astronomy and related fields. The observatory has facilities both within Vatican City and at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence.

Understanding the size and scope of Vatican City requires a multi-faceted exploration, from its geographical dimensions and population to its historical context, architectural wonders, and unique administrative structure. The smallest country in the world, Vatican City is a testament to the profound influence and enduring legacy of the Roman Catholic Church, a microcosm of faith and tradition nestled within the heart of Rome.

Related Questions

What surrounds vatican city?

Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world both by area and population, is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. It measures approximately 44 hectares (110 acres) and has a population of about 800 people. This unique positioning situates Vatican City right in the heart of Italy's capital, making the surrounding areas of Rome integral to understanding what encircles this sovereign city-state.

Ask Hotbot: What surrounds vatican city?

Where is vatican city?

Vatican City, officially known as the Vatican City State, is the smallest independent city-state in the world both by area and population. It serves as the spiritual and administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican City is an enclave situated within the city of Rome, Italy, making it unique in its relationship with its surrounding country. Established as an independent state in 1929, it is governed by the Pope and serves as the seat of the Holy See.

Ask Hotbot: Where is vatican city?