Introduction

Flag of the Vatican City.svg

Vatican City (ən/ (About this soundlisten)), officially Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano; Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae), is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Established with the Lateran Treaty (1929), it is distinct from, yet under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes). With an area of 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population.

The Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state (a type of theocracy) ruled by the pope who is the bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. Since the return of the popes from Avignon in 1377, they have generally resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.

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Vatican Palace
Credit: Lalupa
Vatican Palace: the gardens from the museum.

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The coat of arms of the State of Vatican City is blazoned gules, two keys in saltire Or and argent, interlaced in the rings gules/Or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned Or. Thus it is simply the emblem of the Papacy (emblem of the Holy See) displayed on a red field with the positions of the gold and silver keys reversed.

  • The crossed keys of gold and silver symbolise the keys of the kingdom of heaven promised to Matthew 16:18-19).
  • The triple crown (the tiara) represents "the three powers of the Supreme Pontiff: Sacred Orders, Jurisdiction and Magisterium",[1] in other words: his functions as "supreme priest", "supreme pastor" and "supreme teacher".
  • The gold cross surmounting the triple crowns symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus.

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Popepiusix.jpg
Credit: George Peter Alexander Healy

Vatican during the Savoyard Era 1870-1929 describes the relation of the Vatican to Italy, after 1870, which marked the end of the Papal State and 1929, when the papacy regained autonomy in the Lateran Treaty.

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A post-restoration section of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel which includes the two panels reproduced above.

The restoration of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel was one of the most significant art restorations of the 20th century. The Sistine Chapel was built by Pope Sixtus IV within the Vatican immediately to the north of St. Peter's Basilica and completed in about 1481. Its walls were decorated by a number of Renaissance painters who were among the most highly regarded artists of late 15th century Italy, including Ghirlandaio, Perugino, and Botticelli. The Chapel was further enhanced under Pope Julius II by the painting of the ceiling by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 and by the painting of the Last Judgment, commissioned by Pope Clement VII and completed in 1541, again by Michelangelo. The tapestries on the lowest tier, today best known from the Raphael Cartoons (painted designs) of 1515–16, completed the ensemble.

Together the paintings make up the greatest pictorial scheme of the Renaissance. Individually, some of Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling are among the most notable works of western art ever created. The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and in particular the ceiling and accompanying lunettes by Michelangelo have been subject to a number of restorations, the most recent taking place between 1980 and 1994. This most recent restoration had a profound effect on art lovers and historians, as colours and details that had not been seen for centuries were revealed.
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