Vatican City is an independent state surrounded by Rome, Italy, that is ruled by the pope and serves as the world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the smallest country in the world, with an area of just 44 hectares, west of the Tiber River.
Except at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City is surrounded by medieval and Renaissance walls that separate it from the city beyond. Within its walls is a vast complex of courtyards, gardens and magnificent buildings, the largest and most imposing of which is the Saint Peter’s Basilica, the principal church of Roman Catholicism.
Vatican City has its own constitution, postal system, seal, flag, and other symbols of statehood. The Vatican also has its own army, the Swiss Guard. Citizenship is gained by permanent residence in the Vatican together with the performance of special duties in the service of the Holy See.
Vatican City is the last remnant of the Papal States, a swath of territories in central Italy acquired over the centuries by the Catholic Church and governed by the pope. Vatican City was established in 1929 under terms of the Lateran Treaty, concluded by the Italian government and the papacy after many years of controversy. Under the treaty, the Catholic Church ceded all claims to the Papal States in return for financial compensation and sovereignty over the Holy See within the state of Vatican City.
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