The Holy See Search



General Information

[Updated: 15.09.2006]


Map of Vatican City


1 Bronze Doors, Stairway of Pius IX and Royal Stairway
2 Arch of the Bells
3 Petriano Entrance
4 Bastion of Nicholas V (IOR)
5 Palace of Sixtus V (Residence of the Holy Father)
6 Palace of Gregory XIII
7 Medieval Palace (Secretariat of State)
8 Borgia Tower
9 Sistine Chapel
10 Hall of  Ligorio
11 Hall of Sixtus V (Apostolic Library)
12 Courtyard of the Library
13 New Wing of the Chiaramonti Museum
14 Tower of the Winds
15 Hall of Bramante
16 Court of the "Pigna"
17 Fountain of the "Galera"
18 Stairway of Bramante
19 Palace of Belvedere
20 Pius-Clementine Museum
21 Atrium of the Four Gates
22 Entrance/Exit of the Vatican Museums
23 Vatican Pinacoteca
24 Gregorian-Profane, Pio-Christian and Missionary-Ethnological Museums
25 Historical Museum of the Carriages
26 The "Passetto"
27 Saint Anne Entrance
28 Parish Church of Saint Anne of the Palafrenieri
29 Barracks of the Swiss Guard
30 Vatican Typography, Commissary
31 Charity Services of the Holy Father
32 Church of Saint Pellegrino
33 L'Osservatore Romano
34 Central Vatican Post Office
35 Vatican Drugstore, Health Services, Vatican Television Center and Telephone Service
36 Square of the Furnace
37 Fountain of the Sacrament
38 "Casina" of Pius IV
39 Pontifical Academy of Sciences
40 House of the Gardener
41 Fountain of the "Aquilone"
42 Tower of the Gallinaro
43 Technical Management of Radio Vatican
44 Part of the Border of the Leonine City
45 Grotto of Lourdes
46 Saint John's Tower
47 Transmission Center "Marconi" of Radio Vatican
48 Ethiopian College
49 Palace of the Governatorate of the State of Vatican City
50 Railway Station
51 Mosaic School, New Underground Parking
52 Church of  Saint Stephen of the Abyssinians
53 Palace of the Tribunal, Central Office of the Vatican Gendarmerie
54 Residence of the Arch-Priest
55 Palace of  Saint Charles
56 Saint Martha's Square
57 Domus Sanctae Marthae
58 Sacristy of Saint Peter's, Palace of the Canonicate, Historical Artistic Museum (Treasure)
59 Square of the Roman Proto-martyrs
60 Teutonic College and Graveyard
61 Hall of the Pontifical Audiences "Paul VI"

Palace of the Holy Office

63 House of hospitality "Gift of Mary"


Territory: 0,439 km2 (about 44 ha; 108,5 acres)

Coordinates: lat. 42° N; long. 12° E

Saint Peter's Square is at 19 meters above sea level and the highest part of the Vatican Gardens is at 77 meters.

The territory covers a maximum length of 1,045 meters and width of 850 meters.

Enclave in the City of Rome.

The State of Vatican City covers an area extending from a short distance from the right bank of the Tiber and includes a slight elevation, of what was anciently known as the Vatican Hill, the old Ager Vaticanus on which summer villas were built during the republican period.  Caligula constructed there his private circus, in which, as in the adjacent gardens, the early Christians would seem te have been martyred.  To the north of the circus, along a secondary route, there was a necropolis in which Saint Peter was buried.  Between the years 324 and 326 Constantine erected over the place of the tomb of the first Pope, an imposing basilica which was replaced by the actual one built between the 16th and the 17th century.

The entire territory of the State of Vatican City is placed under the protection of the La Haye Convention of 14 May 1954, concerning the safeguard of cultural goods in case of armed conflict.  The Vatican City is thus recognized - and this is so also in international discipline - as a moral, artistic and cultural patrimony worthy of being respected and protected as a treasure belonging to humanity.  From 1984 the State of Vatican City is registered in the World Heritage List.

  There exist some minor areas outside State territory and located within Italy which enjoy extraterritorial rights, such as the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano and San Paolo fuori le Mura, with adjacent buildings; some palaces and Roman villas which house pontifical administrations; the villas and Palace of Castel Gandolfo, which is the summer residence of the Pope; the area located in Cesano (Santa Maria di Galeria) at about 25 km from Rome [Italian].

santa-sede_stemma.gif (12851 byte)

State structure
and Diplomatic Relations

The expression Holy See refers to the supreme Authority of the Church, and thus the Pope as Bishop of Rome and head of the College of Bishops.  Defines therefore the Central Government of the Catholic Church.  As such, the Holy See is an institution which, according to the international laws and customs, has a juridical personality which permits it to sign treaties and to send and receive diplomatic representatives, as juridical equivalent of a state.

The State of Vatican City came into existence with the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy on 11 February 1929 and ratified on 7 June 1929, by which Italy recognized the full property rights and exclusive sovereignty on the Vatican as it is made up at present .  It is a very small territorial entity, with the purpose of making it possible for the Pope to exercise freely his Ministry of governing the universal Church .

The State of Vatican City and the Holy See, both sovereign subjects of international public law , universally recognized , are indissolubly united in the person of the Supreme Pontiff, as Head of State , who possesses full legislative, judicial and executive powers.  In periods of  "Sede Vacante" (Vacancy of the Apostolic See), these powers belong to the College of Cardinals.  The Supreme Pontiff governs the State through the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City (legislative power; composed of cardinals, nominated by him for a 5 year period) and the Governatorate of the State of Vatican City (executive power).  The legislative regulations are published in a special supplement of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

The judicial power is exercised, in the name of the Supreme Pontiff, by the constituted organs according to the juridical structure of the State: a Magistrate, a Court of First Instance, a Court of Appeal and a Court of Cassation.

The Supreme Pontiff represents, through the Secretariat of State, the State of Vatican City in relations with foreign States, for the conclusion of Treaties and for diplomatic relations.

Between 1870 and 1929, when the State of Vatican City did not exist, the Holy See maintained diplomatic relations with many States.  Diplomatic envoys to the Holy See, with a certain stable character, are found since the end of the XV century.  In the XVI century the constitution of permanent representations began.

The Holy See, besides the active right of diplomatic representation (the Apostolic Nuncio is a pontifical Representative, who covers the permanent function of representation of the Roman Pontiff with States and with the local ecclesiastical hierarchy), exercises the passive right, which means that it receives Representatives sent by States in extraordinary and temporary mission or ordinary and permanent mission.

Both the State of Vatican City and the Holy See, as the sovereign organ of the Catholic Church, have obtained an ever growing recognition of their distinct international character.  They are members of international organizations and participate in international conferences according to the relative agreements.

  Bilateral and multilateral diplomatic relations [English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish]

  Fundamental Law of the State of Vatican City of 26.11.2000 [German, Italian, Portuguese]
  Head of State: His Holiness Benedict XVI, 265th Pontiff, born as Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, diocese of Passau (Federal Republic of Germany) on 16 April 1927.
[English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish]

Beginning of the Pontificate: 2005

19 April: Anniversary of the Election of His Holiness Benedict XVI

24 April: Anniversary of the beginning of the Petrine Ministry of His Holiness Benedict XVI

  Statistical information on the Pontificate of Benedict XVI [English, Italian]

  Secretary of State: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. [English, Italian] , from 15 September 2006.

  Profile of the Secretariat of State [English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]
  President of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City and the Governatorate of the State of Vatican City : Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo [English, Italian] , from 15 September 2006.

  The Supreme Pontiff is elected by cardinals who are not yet 80 years old, united in a conclave , according to the rules set by the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis [English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish] of John Paul II, dated 22 February 1996 , concerning the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff.

  The College of cardinals [English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish] is made up of 3 ranks (episcopal, presbyterial and diaconal) and is composed of cardinals who are freely selected by the Pope and who are at least clerics having received the presbyterate.

  The Deacon, who is the cardinal bishop of the Suburbicarian Church of Ostia, presides the College of cardinals: Cardinal Angelo Sodano [English, Italian], from 30 April 2005.

  The Roman Curia consists of institutions which assist the Holy Father in the government of the Church: Secretariat of State (divided into Section of General Affairs and Section for the Relations with the States); Congregations (for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Oriental Churches, for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, for the Causes of Saints, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Clergy, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for Catholic Education); Pontifical Councils (for the Laity, for Promoting Christian Unity, for the Family, for Justice and Peace, "Cor Unum", for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, for the Pastoral Assistance of Health Care Workers, for Legislative Texts, for Inter-religious Dialogue, for Culture, for Social Communications); Tribunals (Apostolic Penitentiary, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, Roman Rota); Offices (Apostolic Chamber,  Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See); Other Institutions of the Roman Curia (Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, Holy See Press Office, Central Statistics Office of the Church); Pontifical Commissions (for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, for Sacred Archeology, Biblical, for the Revision and the Emendation of the Vulgate, "Ecclesia Dei"); Pontifical Committees and the Commissions of Cardinals; Institutions connected with the Holy See (Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican Apostolic Library, Vatican Typography, L'Osservatore Romano, Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana), Radio Vatican, Vatican Television Center, Fabric of Saint Peter's, Office of Papal Charities), Labor Office of the Apostolic See, Pontifical Administrations and Delegations.

  Statistics of the Catholic Church in de World [Italian]

The Papal Military Corps, with the exception of the Swiss Guards, were disbanded on 14 September 1970 under the Pontificate of Paul VI.

The internal security of the State of Vatican City is taken care of by:

  Gendarmerie of the State of Vatican City [Italian]

  Pontifical Swiss Guard [Italian]

The external security of the State of Vatican City is taken care of by the Inspectorate of Public Security to the Vatican (Italian State).

Acquisition and loss of citizenship, authorization to reside in the State of Vatican City and formalities to enter, are set out in the Law N. III of 7 June 1929, on citizenship and residence, and in the Regulation N. XXXVI of 27 September 1932, for entrance to Vatican City.

  Vatican citizenship [English, French, Italian, Spanish]

  The State of Vatican City mints its own coins and issues its own postage stamps [Italian]


Monetary unit: euro of the Vatican, at parity with the unified European currency in circulation from 1 January 2002.

scv_bandiera_plain.gif (3487 byte)

  Coat of Arms of His Holiness Benedict XVI - Flag, Coat of Arms and Seal of the Holy See and the State of Vatican City [French, English, Italian, Spanish]

  Pontifical Hymn [Plurilingual] - Text - Historical notes - Score for musical band, transcription for orchestra and reduction for piano and choir - Music file in format MIDI

     O Rome immortal of Martyrs and Saints, O immortal Rome, accept our praises: Glory in the heavens to God our Lord, And peace to men who love Christ! To You we come, Angelic Pastor, In You we see the gentle Redeemer,The Holy Heir of true and holy Faith; Comfort and refuge of those who believe and fight.  Force and terror will not prevail, But Truth and Love will reign.    


  Railroad Station [Italian]

International automobile sign: V/VA

International postal code: SCV-00120

International telephone prefix: +39-06

Time zone: OEC

International Organization for Standardization (DIN Berlin) ISO 3166 COUNTRY CODE of the State of Vatican City (Holy See):

  Link to the Web site of the Holy See:

Domain: VA


Return to:

- Index Documentation
[English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish]

- Index Holy See Press Office
[English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish]