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At just 0.17 square miles, Vatican City is the world’s smallest country. A United Nations Observer and entirely surrounded by Rome, the Vatican is the residence of the spiritual leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and its tiny population, which sits at just over 1,000, is almost entirely made up of priests and nuns.

Originally the capital of the Papal States, it was the only one remaining once Italy unified itself in the 19th century, although the Pope’s power was abolished, and the papal territory was confined to the Vatican’s walls. In 1929 the Italian Government negotiated the Lateran Treaty, which created the microstate in its current form.

Today the independent state is home to the Pope and is where head of the Catholic Church exercises his universal power from. Vatican City has its own telephone network, post office, gardens, radio station banking system and even an astronomical observatory. Much of the country’s income is derived from the donations of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide, in addition to tourism.

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Did you know?

  • Vatican City is the world’s smallest country in terms of both size and population.
  • The microstate has its own pharmacy, post office, telephone system and media outlets.
  • Vatican City is an absolute monarchy, with full legislative, judicial and executive authority residing with the Pope.
  • The Vatican is guarded by members of the Swiss army.
  • Vatican City is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site to encompass a whole country.