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The Vatican City State

Recently in class, we’ve talked a little about Catholicism. So today, I would like to introduce to you a place in Rome that all Catholics hold dear in their hearts. The Vatican City State. I shall be your tour guide around this amazing city and to hopefully help you learn more about Catholicism, the significant of the Vatican City as well as the interesting sights in the Vatican. Before I begin showing you around, let me tell you more about the city.

Did you know that The Vatican is the smallest country in the world??? It is internationally recognized as an independent state by both area and population.

Background information

The independent City State covers just over 100 acres (~110 acres), with a population of only 824 as of July 2014.The Pope is the head of the Vatican City, as well as the head of the Catholic Church. He is thought of as the traditional successor to Saint Peter (the first bishop of Rome), to whom Jesus gave the keys of heaven and naming him the “rock” which all the churches would be built upon. The current pope is Francis and he is currently the only absolute monarchy in Europe.

Explaining the process of how a Pope is chosen/ elected would take me a long while. However if you are interested to know how a Pope is chosen, click on the link and knock yourself out!

This is the Vatican City flag! The key seen on the right side of the Vatican flag are the keys to heaven that were given to St. Peter, and the colours yellow and white symbolizes loyalty to the Papacy (the office and jurisdiction of the Pope).

The Swiss Guards

The Swiss guards are the ones responsible for the security of the Pope (Pope Francis) and these soldiers are entitled to hold Vatican City State passport and nationality.

To be recruited as a Swiss guard

  • Recruits must be a Swiss citizen
  • Of Roman Catholic faith
  • Good moral ethical background
  • Attended the Military school in Switzerland
  • Between 19-30 years of age
  • At least 174cm tall
  • Unmarried male
  • Have either a professional diploma or a high school degree

Saint Peter’s Basilica

One of the highlights of The Vatican would definitely be St. Peter’s Basilica; it is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. So, according to the Catholic tradition, the Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. St Peter is also thought of as the first Pope and Bishop of Rome! He met his martyrdom during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, and under his own request, Peter was crucified upside down. He felt that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus because he denied Jesus 3 times, saying that he is not related to Jesus in any way. As a result of the way Peter was crucified, the church used the upside down cross (without a corpus, so not a crucifix) to designate Peter, not Christ.

It is used as a symbolic reminder of St. Peter’s humility and heroic martyrdom but personally, I don’t look at it as heroic because he did deny Jesus and just because he was going to die, he suggested to die in a different manner, that just means that he wants to make up for his mistake or that he was ashamed. Doesn’t mean that he was heroic.

Oh and The old St. Peter's Basilica was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to honor Peter! Yes the same Constantine that we've covered in class, the one that converted to Christianity! The current St. Peter's Basilica is not the original one, it was renovated to become the one we see today St. Peter's Basilica #2!

Anyway, he was buried in the Clementine Chapel (a enclosed Roman Catholic chapel located within the underground necropolitan grottoes of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican city) which makes St. Peter’s Basilica famous as a place of pilgrimage, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people. Either within the St. Peter’s Basilica or its adjoining St. Peter’s square, or both. It depends on the occasion and the expected number of people attending. The picture below is similar to how the people of Islam gather to take part in the pilgrimage to Mecca.

If you are thinking of celebrating Christmas at St. Peter’s Basilica, you’re running late!! Easter masses and Christmas Eve masses are sometimes hard to get tickets and you will often have to book way in advance, no less than 2 months usually! The best way to secure your ticket for the occasion such as Easter/ Christmas mass, would be to send a fax from your country directly to the Vatican, between 6-2 months in advance.

I hope from this post gave you an idea why the Vatican is important to Roman Catholics all over the world!

For more information contact Prefecture of the Papal Household:

Prefecture of the Papal Household 00120 Vatican City State Fax: +39 06 6988 5863