Vatican City - The World's Smallest Independent State
Vatican City is a small independent state within the city of Rome in Italy, and the Vatican is situated right on the bank of the River Tiber. It is the home of the Roman Catholic Pope who is otherwise known as the Bishop of Rome. The half a square mile state is administered by a governor appointed by the Pope. It is home to the largest and most majestic of the Christian churches, St. Peter's.
The Vatican is also a huge collection of buildings some of which go back to the 4th century A.D., and the crypt contains tombs which go back to the time of the Apostles. Other religious and cultural sites within Vatican City include the Sistine Chapel, whose walls were decorated by the great artist Michelangelo, and the Vatican Museums which feature some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures.
It was not until 1929 that Vatican City came to be a separate state within Rome. It was then that an agreement was finally reached with the Italian government over the ruling of the vast Papal states throughout central Italy. This agreement was known as the Lateran Treaty and was signed by Pope Pius XI when he accepted that the Papal States were part of Italy. In return, the Pope was recognised as the sovereign of the independent state.
During the second world war the Holy See, which ruled Vatican City, pursued a policy of neutrality and although German troops occupied the city of Rome after the September 1943 Armistice of Cassibile, and the Allies from 1944, they respected Vatican City as neutral territory.
There are no passport or visa controls for visitors entering Vatican City from Italian territory and there is free access to St. Peter's Square.
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