Vatican City, officially known as Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano), is the world's smallest country, a sovereign city-state located entirely within Rome. Created by the Lateran Treaties of 1929, it had a previous, and far more powerful incarnation - The Papal States. It is perhaps the only currently existing Real Life example of The Theocracy as well as one of the most famous examples of a Holy City. It is also unique in the modern world in having Latin as its official language, though its newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, is published primarily in Italian.
The country is ruled by the pope, which is also the ruler of the Holy See, that is, the government of the Roman Catholic Church whose influence extends far outside the city's walls. This makes the pope one of the Roman Catholic religious leader that also leads a country, the other being the Bishop of Urgell of Andorra. While Castel Gandolfo (the summer residence of the pope and current home to "pope emeritus" Joseph Ratzinger) and other places belong to the church, they are not as is often assumed exclaves of the Vatican in any diplomatic sense. However, Italy does not usually press the matter, so the point is moot for all but geography nerds.
The Holy See (not the Vatican as a state which is member of jack squat) is not a member of the United Nations, but has Permanent Observer status. Remarkably, this situation is the result of the Church's sense of honor: since the UN holds freedom and democracy as one of its highest values, and the Vatican is neither free nor democratic (as it is technically an absolute monarchy and all its inhabitants are either clergy or Swiss Guards oath-bound to obey the Pope), it declines full membership out of honesty. This isn't to say that the Church is opposed to freedom or democracy — quite the opposite — but that the Vatican works best as it is, and nobody complains (it is the only state in the world where everyone who lives there has made an active and completely voluntary choice to do sonote ). Vatican City also does not participate in The European Union, its income primarily consisting of contributions from believers around the world, as well as its tourist sector, although it uses the Euro as currency and has a deal with the EU to mint - highly sought after - "Vatican Euros".note
The smallest city/state devotes much of its money back outside, often leaving it slightly in the red. While it gained $355.5 million in revenue in 2008, it spent $356.8 million. Vatican City does house a vast and priceless collection of art collected over its multi-millenial existence, but chooses to keep the treasures for all to see; else, a private collector could buy and shut it away forever.
Please note that you must dress appropriately to enter.note
Nowadays, the city-state mainly serves as the administrative capital of Catholicism and a major religious tourist destination. In an example of the perfidy of statistics, it has the world's highest per-capita crime rate, of 1.5 crimes per capita.
A common misnomer: while Vatican City is surrounded by Rome, the religion's official name is simply the "Catholic Church". The term "Roman" (or "Latin") just defines one of the rites, or liturgical practices, of a bulk of their followers. There are numerous Eastern Catholic churches (e.g. the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Maronite Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Assyrian Catholic Church...), which use various non-Latin rites: namely, the Byzantine Rite (broadly similar to the Eastern Orthodox liturgy), Alexandrian Rite (broadly similar to the Oriental Orthodox), the Antiochan/West Syrian Rite, and the East Syrian Rite. There are also variant Latin/Western rites, including the Ambrosian Rite (still used in Milan), the Mozarabic Rite (formerly used by the Catholics of Muslim Spain), the Sarum Rite (formerly used in England), and the Anglican Use (used by congregations which were once Anglo-Catholic—i.e. Catholicizing members of the Anglican Communion—who decided to have done with it already and join the Catholic Church, but retained the Anglican liturgy).
Note that Vatican City is, officially, not considered a continuation of the Papal States. It was created in the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the Papacy and Mussolini, which made it a point to emphasize that the Papal States had ceased to exist, and "Vatican City" was a new creation.
Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night. It has its own phone company, radio, T.V. stations, money, and stamps. It even has its own army, the historic Swiss Guard.
The Vatican in fiction:
- Angels & Demons, where someone begins a series of ritual murders in the city. ...well, Rome actually.
- In Don Camillo: Monsignor (1961 film), Don Camillo becomes a Monsignore (bishop) and briefly goes to the Vatican at the beginning.
- Hellsing: the manga features an attack on the Vatican by a New Age cult, and later includes a cameo of Pope John Paul II (yes, they actually refers to him directly as Papa Joannes Paulus Secundus, lawsuits be damned) authorizing a crusade to reconquer England.
- In The Legend of Koizumi, Koizumi meets Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican for a truly epic mahjong match.
- In Van Helsing there is a secret society made up of members of many religions and nations who fight to protect mankind from evil; its base of operations is underground, just beneath St. Peter's Basilica.
- Borgia and The Borgias, as it covers the infamous history of Pope Alexander VI and his family.
- The Vatican as represented in Scandinavia and the World is portrayed as a kindly old man in popish garb (with his flag as his robe) who gets freaked out by the Scandinavians' Christmas traditions.
- Shows up in Assassin's Creed II as the site of the final mission, with the bulk of it taking place in the Sistine Chapel. In a nod to history, the Chapel's ceiling lacks its famous fresco painting, as the level takes place in the year 1499, before the fresco was put in. The sequel, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, also features the Vatican prominently (what with the game being set in Rome and all), and has you breaking in several times.
- Penn & Teller: Bullshit! had an episode dedicated to calling out the Vatican.
- The central story The Godfather Part III gravitates around a struggle between the The Mafia and the Vatican bankers, with The Pope (a reformist man) caught in the middle. Many scenes take place in the city.
- The Vatican's mentioned as a minor background character in Axis Powers Hetalia, primarily as an aging (and apparently grumpy) priest who's at odds with both Italies. And who has a grudge with England (see Henry VIII).
- Trinity Blood has the Vatican becoming the dominant power in Western Europe about a thousand years after an apocalyptic war with vampires.
- Blue Exorcist has the Knight of the True Cross's headquarters under Vatican City. Or Rome, to be accurate...
- Some early events of The Genesis Code take place in the offices of the Vatican's bureaucracy.
- In A Certain Magical Index, the Vatican occasionally appears, as the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope are major characters. Eventually, Fiamma of the Right decides the city and the Pope have outlived their usefulness to his plans and tries to wipe it off the map. The Pope manages to contain the blast so that there is minimal damage to the city (though St. Peter's Basilica gets destroyed) at the cost of his body being left in critical condition, and Fiamma leaves.
- In the climax of Eurotrip, Scotty and his friends enter the Vatican to try to meet Scotty's prospective love interest Mieke, who is on a tour there. Leads to hilarity like Scotty accidentally ringing a bell that signals the Pope had died.
The Vatican Flag