History of Vatican City

Historyplex Staff Nov 17, 2018
Vatican City has always been fascinating, even for people professing religions other than Christianity. This country is the Mecca of about one billion people worldwide, who profess the Catholic faith.
Vatican City is a walled enclave, entirely inside the city of Rome, Italy and is the smallest country in this world. The overall population is not more than 1000 people and the land area covered is approximately 44 hectares.
Its history is an interesting fabrication of the Roman Catholic faith and influence of the Popes. Vatican City came into existence in the year 1929, as a result of the Lateran Treaty signed by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri.
The Vatican dates back to the 6th century, with the construction of the basilica of St. Peter's by Emperor Constantine. This was followed by construction of a palace by Pope Symmachus, close to the basilica.
After the return of Papacy to Rome in the year 1377, the Pope, who usually resided in the Lateral Palace in Rome, started living in the Vatican. The Popes were generally great patrons of arts, and made constant efforts for the collection of masterpieces. These were assembled to construct wonderful galleries and museums.
Popes like Sixtus IV, Leo X, Alexander VI, Julius II, and Clement VII, contributed to the cultural development of this holy country. Popes ruled parts of Italy till the mid of 19th century and then many of the papal states were taken away by the unified Italy. In 1870, the Pope's influence and powers were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed.
After the struggle for Italian unification from 1860 to 1870, the Papacy was confined to the Vatican and Lateran palaces. This was done in accordance with the Italian Law passed on 13th May 1871. The Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871) played a vital role in the formation of Vatican City.
France was defeated by Germany in this war, leading to the annexation of Papal states to the newly unified Italy. However, the Popes in Vatican refused to leave and three Lateran Treaties were signed in the year 1929, giving the Church special privileges under the Papal rule.
Since that time, the Vatican has been an independent country which can issue normal passports and can send and receive ambassadors.
Steps were taken for the modernization of the church and its policies in the year 1962 and as per the new policies, the power was decentralized. The bishops had a larger role, and laymen were given a larger part in church affairs.
Cardinal Albino Luciani was chosen as the pope on 26th August, 1978, to succeed Paul VI who died of a heart attack. He died only 34 days after his election and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla took his place under the name John Paul II.
Wojtyla became the first Polish and non-Italian Pope since the 16th century. In the year 1984, certain agreements of the Lateran Treaty were further modified, and these modifications included the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the official religion.
Vatican City is also well-known for many controversial issues regarding the life and death of Jesus Christ. The beautiful museums exhibit world-famous paintings and the history of Christian civilization.
The documents and transcripts in the Vatican still arouse universal interest and the oldest document dates back to the end of the 8th century. Presently, the Secret Vatican Archives exhibit more than 630 different archival fonds, covering an almost continuous period of over 800 years of history.