History of Vatican City (history of the Vatican)

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    • History of Vatican City      • The Lateran treaty

History of Vatican City: Situated on the spot where St Peter was martyred and buried almost 2000 years ago this has always been an important area for the Holy See.

Prior to 1860 most of Central Italy was governed by the Papal States of which the Pope was the head. Their lands were protected by hired mercenaries and international armies. By 1860, however, most of the Papal states had been absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy with the city of Rome last to capitulate in 1870.

The Vatican at night across the Tiber.history of the vatican city

In 1929 the Lateran Treaty allowed the State of the Vatican City to be formed, and thenceforth ruled by the Bishop of Rome - the Pope.

History of Vatican City: Site History of the Vatican City

The original lands that the Vatican City occupies today was also the site of Roman Emperor Nero's Circus. The obelisk in the center of the Vatican square (the only remnant of the original Circus) was originally part of Heliopolis (an ancient Egyptian city which stood in the vicinity of present day Cairo) but taken by Roman Emperor Caligula and erected close to where it stands today.

The site of the Circus of Nero has the notorious reputation of being the place where many Christians were martyred. It is also believed that St Peter was crucified upside down here.

Site History of the Vatican City: The original Basilica
In 326 AD Emperor Constantine (who had Christianity officially recognized) built a Basilica over St Peter's tomb. Subsequent excavations, ordered by Pope Pius between 1939 and 1941, did indeed find a tomb. Once the Basilica was built the surrounding area (where the Vatican now sits) was largely developed with buildings relating to the duties of the church.

Much to Michelangelo's despair the original Basilica including its ancient Roman columns and facade was clumsily torn down by Borromeo (the Pope's architect and initial designer of St Peters Basilica) and very little of the original structure was salvaged. This was not to be the start of a good relationship between the two...

In later years the area that the Vatican now occupies was to be included in the fortified walls of Rome - the other side of the Tiber River but still within the Ancient City walls. This format was to be convenient for the Lateran Treaty.

history of the vatican

History of Vatican City: The Lateran Treaty

After Rome became part of the Italian kingdom in 1870 the position of the Pope and Catholic Church became an anomaly. The Pope and his duties were largely recognized and they were undisturbed in the Vatican grounds, although officially they considered themselves imprisoned.

It was the Lateran treaty of 1929 that recognized the Vatican State (the boundaries were much influenced by the position of the old fortified walls of Rome). The treaty was agreed upon between Benito Mussolini, King Victor Emmanuel III and Pope Pius XI. All parties agreed to the fact that it was not to be associated, or thought of, as a last vestige of the Papal States.

History of Vatican City, Related pages:

Interesting Vatican City Facts
Map of Vatican City
Guide to the Vatican city area
Hotels near the Vatican

Go from Vatican City History to Rome Italy home page.

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Tours encompassing the history of the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel and museums:
Skip the Line: Vatican Museums Tour including Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Rooms and St Peter's
From EUR 52.00
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3 hours (approx.)

Rome Italy tours: Take a small group walking tour of the Vatican Museums and St Peter's  ... More info
Skip the Line Private Tour: Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & Raphael's rooms
From EUR 75.00
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3 hours (approx.)

Rome Italy tours: Receive the Papal treatment with your very own private tour of the Vatican!  ... More info
Exclusive: Private Rome Tour of Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums
From EUR ?
(Check for special offers)
private rome tour sistine chapel

2 hours (approx.)

Rome Italy tours: This tour gives visitors an exclusive viewing of the Sistine Chapel and  ... More info

Including info and special offers on Vatican tours