The State of the Vatican City (commonly known also as the Vatican City-State) is the smallest independent country in the world (both in area and in population), a landlocked enclave surrounded by the city of Rome in Italy. "The Vatican" is the home of the Pope, and forms the territory of the Holy See, the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican City includes the Vatican Hill (mons vaticanus), whose name predates Christianity, and the Vatican Fields north of the hill, upon which St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums are built.
It is supposed that this originally uninhabited part of Rome (the ager vaticanus) had always been considered sacred, even before the arrival of Christianity. In 326 the first church was built on the supposed site of the tomb of Saint Peter, and from then on the area started to become more populated.
Popes in their secular role gradually extended their control over neighbouring regions and through the Papal States ruled a large portion of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when most of the territory of the Papal States was seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy.
In 1870, the Pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed. Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved on February 11, 1929 by three Lateran treaties, which established the independent state of the Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a new concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.
The term "Holy See" refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. As the "central government" of the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See has a legal personality that allows it to enter into treaties as the juridical equal of a state. The Pope delegates the internal administration of the Vatican City to the Pontifical Commission for the State of the Vatican City. The legal system is based on canon, or ecclesiastical, law; if canon law is not applicable the laws of the city of Rome apply.
As an independent state, the Vatican has the right to send and receive diplomatic representatives, including foreign embassies, which are located in the Italian part of Rome due to the very limited territory of the state. This means that Italy hosts its own Embassy of Italy.
The Vatican City is situated on the Vatican Hill in the northwestern part of Rome, several hundred metres west of the Tiber river. Its borders (3.2km in total, all with Italy) closely follow the city wall constructed to protect the Pope from outside attack. The situation is more complex at the famous St. Peter's Square in front of the St. Peter's Basilica, where the correct border is the middle of the round area surrounded by Bernini's columns. It is the smallest sovereign state in the world (0.44km², 108.7acres). In addition to Vatican City the State includes certain extra-territorial properties in Italy belonging to the Holy See (Major Basilicas, Curial and diocesan offices, Castel Gandolfo). The Pope is the Head of State, though he governs through the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. The Gubernator manages the day to day affairs of the State.
Its climate is naturally much the same as Rome's; a temperate, mediterranean clime with mild, rainy winters from September to mid-May and hot, dry summers from May to September.
This unique, noncommercial economy is supported financially by contributions (known as Peter's Pence) from Roman Catholics throughout the world, the sale of postage stamps, coins and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to, or somewhat better than, those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome.
Almost all of Vatican City's 890 citizens live inside the Vatican's walls. The Vatican citizenry consists mostly of clergy, including high dignitaries, priests, nuns, as well as the famous Swiss Guard, a voluntary military force. There are also about 3,000 lay workers who comprise the majority of the Vatican work force, but who reside outside the Vatican.
The official language is Latin, the otherwise extinct language that originated in Rome and has remained in use in the Roman Catholic Church. Italian and, to a lesser extent, other languages are generally used for most conversations, publications and broadcasts.