An independent city-state of 0.44 square kilometers (0.17 square miles), the Vatican consists of Saint Peter’s cathedral (so named because it was built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century AD on what legend reputed to be the tomb of the apostle Peter), its surrounding palaces (which include the pope’s private quarters and the Vatican library), and a substantial walled park behind Saint Peter’s. The city has fewer than 1,000 residents, of whom approximately 400 carry the Vatican passport. The pope’s territorial authority also extends over a handful of important buildings elsewhere in Rome, including the cathedral.
   The pope rules as absolute monarch over the tiny city-state, which has its own railway station and its own newspaper (the Osservatore Romano, the official organ of the Vatican). Aregiment of (volunteer) Swiss guards, in colorful costumes designed by Raphael, maintains a symbolic defense of the tiny state. The Vatican maintains an observer at the United Nations but is not a member. Nevertheless, since the signing of the Lateran pacts in 1929, it has been recognized as a sovereign state. The Vatican is full of priceless works of art by the great Renaissance masters. The recently restored frescoes painted by Michelangelo on the ceilings of the Sistine chapel continue to draw awed art lovers from around the world.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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