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Interesting Vatican City Facts

    •  Interesting Vatican City facts      •  A female Pope!?     •  Murder in the Vatican

Interesting Vatican City Facts:

  • The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world with the smallest population. It measures 44 hectares ( 110 acres) and has a population of about 1000 people.

  • The Vatican has its own Post office and issues its own stamps. The Vatican mail system is widely used by Romans as in most cases is a lot quicker than Italian mail.

  • The Vatican's radio station is located in a tower inside the Vatican Gardens and broadcasts in 20 languages throughout the world.

  • The Vatican's railway Station was opened in 1930 and is mostly used for freight.

  • Piazza di San Pietro (St Peter's Square) and the colonnade were designed and built by Bernini (completed in 1667). At 314 meters long and 240 meters wide it is the largest square in Rome. Bernini (with the help of his pupils) designed the 140 statues of saints which decorate the colonnade.

  • The Vatican City issues its own passports; the Pope, cardinals, members of the Swiss guard and clergy being the recipients.

  • The Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the only site to encompass a whole country.

  • Italians are allowed to donate 8% of their yearly taxes to the Vatican (this is instead of paying it to the Italian Government).

  • In 2007 the Vatican opted to become the first Carbon neutral state by offsetting their carbon footprint with the creation of a forest in Hungary.

  • The Vatican stamps its own coins. The €1 coin which has a portrait of the present Pope is in high demand with collectors.

  • The Vatican museums are over 9 miles (14,5 kilometers) long, and it is said that if you spent only 1 minute admiring each painting it would take you 4 years to complete the circuit!

vatican city facts

Vatican City Facts: The Swiss Guards

  • Established in 1506 by Pope Julius II the Pontifical Swiss Guard (Vatican guard) were originally employed as personal bodyguards to the Pope, at present they serve as the military force of the Vatican.

  • To be a Swiss guard one must be: at least 1,74m (5'8.5'') in height, Male, Catholic, between the ages of 19 and 30, have completed basic training in the Swiss military, and of course, be Swiss.

Vatican City Facts: The popes

  • The Pope is an elected non-hereditary monarch and has complete judicial, executive and legislative control over the Vatican State - which means he is at present the only absolute monarch in Europe.

  • The balcony upon which the newly elected Pope stands is called "Loggia of the Benediction", it is from here that many millions around the world hear the first blessing "Urbi et Orbi" , to the city and the world.

  • Is it true that some Popes have fathered children?
    Yes, many, too numerous to mention here! Pope Innocence VIII had eight! It is also rumored that Christopher Columbus was also the son of the errant Pope. It's thanks to Pope Innocence that Columbus received the funding for his trip to the new world.

Vatican City Facts: Was there a female Pope?!

St Peter's Baldacchino
vatican city facts

It is documented that after Pope Leo came a Pope Joan.
John Anglicus, born in Mainz, was recorded as being pope for two years, seven months and four days. It is is claimed that John was in fact female.

Joan/John was taken to Athens by a lover of hers and made to conceal her identity by dressing in men's clothes. Joan was an extremely bright scholar and rose quickly in society. In Rome she rose quickly amongst learnered masters and students and soon she was the choice of everyone for Pope.

While pope she became pregnant by her companion and it is said she gave birth during a procession from St Peter's Basilica to the Lateran, in a narrow lane between the Colosseum and St Clement's church. After her identity was discovered she was killed and buried in that same place.

Vatican City facts since the event:

  • Popes were carried around in a chair with a hole in the bottom, supposedly to allow cardinals to check for manhood.
  • From 16th century documentation there is evidence of a bust of Johannes VIII, femina ex Anglia among a line of papal busts in the Siena Cathedral.
  • Papal processions stopped using the street in question (Via Vicus Papissa - lady Pope street).
  • There was a statue and shrine on this street of a mother and child, representing the Popess and her infant. The statue is no longer but the shrine still exists.
  • Legends says that a stone slab marked the spot where Joan gave birth and was buried. However, Pope Pius V had it removed in the late 16th century.
  • To this day an illustration of her labor remains in Saint Peter's Basilica at the foot of the baldacchino, the main altar (over St Peter's tomb).
  • Unlike most of the other Popes, no public illustration or painting exists in the Vatican of Pope Johannes .

Vatican City Facts: Murder in The Vatican

On May 4, 1998, the Swiss Guard Commander, Alois Estermann, was murdered under unclear circumstances in the Vatican City. The official Vatican version stated that Estermann and his wife Gladys Meza Romero were both killed by another Swiss Guard, Cédric Tornay, who later committed suicide. Estermann had only been named commander of the Swiss Guard that same day. There is also speculation that there had been a homosexual affair between Estermann and Tornay.

Vatican City Facts, Related pages:

History of Vatican City
Map of Vatican City
Guide to the Vatican city area
Hotels near the Vatican

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Tours of the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel and Vatican museums:
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From EUR 52.00
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3 hours (approx.)

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Skip the Line Private Tour: Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & Raphael's rooms
From EUR 75.00
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3 hours (approx.)

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Exclusive: Private Rome Tour of Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums
From EUR ?
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2 hours (approx.)

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