Portal:Vatican City

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Vatican City About this sound /ˈvætɪkən ˈsɪti/ , officially the State of the Vatican City (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano), is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes).

Vatican City was established as an independent state in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri, on behalf of Pope Pius XI and by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. The treaty spoke of the Vatican City State as a new creation (Preamble and Article III), not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756–1870) that had previously encompassed much of central Italy.

The Vatican City State is distinct from the Holy See, which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.2 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin.

The Vatican City State is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose main territory consists of an enclave within the city of Rome. At approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and with a population of around 800, it is the smallest country in the world by both area and population.

The ruler of the Vatican City State is the Bishop of Rome—the Pope, whose habitual official residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace, is located on its territory. This makes the Vatican the only remaining absolute monarchy in Europe. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church.

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Saint Peter's Square
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Five images of Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican stitched up to make this panorama.

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The Vatican Apostolic Library (Latin: Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana), more commonly called simply the Vatican Library, is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from throughout history.

Scholars have traditionally divided the history of the library into five periods:

  • Pre-Lateran. The initial days of the library, dating from the earliest days of the church, before it moved to the Lateran Palace.
  • Lateran. Lasted until the end of the 13th century and the reign of Pope Boniface VIII.
  • Avignon. This period saw a great growth in book collection and record keeping by the popes who were in residence in southern France in Avignon between the death of Boniface and the 1370s when the Papacy returned to Rome.
  • Pre-Vatican. From about 1370 to 1446, the library was scattered, with parts in Rome, Avignon and elsewhere.
  • Vatican. Starting around 1448, the library moved to the Vatican and a continuous history begins to the present time.

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The Vatican post office has operated its own postal service and issued its own postage stamps since 1929.

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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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