Vatican City

Culture Name


Alternative Names

Holy See, the Vatican


Identification. The Vatican, or Vatican City, is the center of Roman Catholicism and the residence of the bishop of Rome (the pope). The popes controlled the Papal States in what is now Italy throughout most of the Middle Ages. On 13 May 1871, the new Italian state restricted the pope's temporal authority to the Vatican and Lateran areas of Rome and the rural retreat of Castel Gandolfo. The popes refused to accept the validity of this law until the Concordat of 11 February 1929 gave the Catholic Church special status in Italy and paid an indemnity to the now independent Vatican City.

Location and Geography. The Vatican's 108.7 acres are completely surrounded by Rome.

Demography. There are about 850 Italian and Swiss permanent residents, along with lay workers from Catholic communities around the world.

Linguistic Affiliation. The major languages are Italian and Latin.

Symbolism. The pope represents a link to Saint Peter and Jesus. Vatican ceremonies recall the words and actions of Jesus and his followers. Candles, incense and various rituals carry symbolic meaning. The Vatican is a symbol of Church leadership and its apostolic tradition.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The Vatican is a successor to the Papal States, which made up a large area of central Italy. After the unification of Italy, the new state annexed the Papal States after Germany defeated France, which had protected the pope's interests, in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). The popes refused to leave, declaring themselves "Prisoners of the Vatican," until Benito Mussolini signed agreements in 1929 granting the Church special privileges in Italy and a cash settlement. The Vatican was given independence under papal rule. Since that time, the Vatican has been an independent state that sends and receives ambassadors.

National Identity. The Vatican's identity is religious, not national. It presents itself as transnational and universal.

Ethnic Relations. The Vatican has sought ties with members of all ethnic groups as part of its universal religious identity.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The Vatican is entirely urban. It has many artistic and architectural masterpieces, including Saint Peter's Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel. Despite its small area, there is a sense of openness and comfort.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The major food style is that of Rome. Like other Italians, residents of the Vatican consider their cooking the best in the world. Pope John Paul II caused a furor when he requested Polish cooking from the papal chef.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On New Year's Eve, the Italian tradition is to have the meal of the seven fishes, including eels, conch, and squid. Lamb is a traditional Easter dish. For each of these meals, there is always a pasta course.

Vatican City
Vatican City

Basic Economy. The economy is based on religious work: the Vatican receives contributions from churches around the world. Tourists come to visit religious shrines and view the art. The major commercial activities are organized around religious concerns, the major industry is governance of the Church, and trade is organized around religious goods.

Land Tenure and Property. The Church owns all property in Vatican City and areas outside the Vatican covered by extraterritorial rights.

Division of Labor. The Curia rules the Church under the pope. Its members come from countries around the world and work in many governmental departments. The pope presides over the bureaucracy, delegating and consulting with his subordinates. The heads of the important bureaus tend to be cardinals.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The Vatican is highly stratified. The pope is at the apex of the hierarchy and cardinal-archbishops, bishops, monsignors, priests, and others come below him, followed by the heads of bureaus. Lay workers generally rank below the clergy.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Clerical dress marks a person's rank. The pope's white robes distinguish him clearly. Cardinals wear red, and other ranks are noted by their style of dress and rings. Style of clothing, place in a procession line, and seating are also marks of social position.

Political Life

Government. The basic law is the Code of Canon Law. Church councils meet approximately once per century. Bishops' synods meet periodically and offer advice, but the day-to-day running of the Vatican

The Piazza San Pietro at night. The Piazza is the site of public masses and worldwide papal addresses.
The Piazza San Pietro at night. The Piazza is the site of public masses and worldwide papal addresses.
is in the hands of appointed officials who oversee the Curia.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are no political parties, but the positions held by the clergy and the laity cover a wide spectrum of opinion, although those positions are not always equally represented. There is an elaborate code of etiquette for approaching officials. Generally, go-betweens are used to arrange meetings. Much is done informally. There is a feeling that consensus should be reached before decisions are published. Therefore, things are discussed at length before the pope speaks officially.

Social Problems and Control. There is little crime, and the typical problems are disputes over religious doctrine and governance. Strict statements and actions regarding conformity to doctrine, including censorship and the silencing of dissidents, have alternated with attempts at persuasion and expressions of conciliation.

Military Activity. The Vatican is officially neutral in world affairs but can mediate disputes if invited to do so. Swiss guards in medieval uniforms protect the pope and the city.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

There are social welfare programs for employees. Catholic charity organizations promote social welfare and change throughout the world.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

In the Vatican, there are no distinctions between church and state. The Vatican works with many secular organizations.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The ethos is male-dominated. There have been efforts toward greater gender equality, especially on the part of nuns. However, as long as the priesthood is reserved for males, it will be difficult to achieve such equality. Men hold the vast majority of key positions.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

The married people in the Vatican are mainly commuting workers whose family arrangements are the same as those in Italy.


The Vatican insists on modest and appropriate dress in its sacred places. Quiet is enjoined in sacred areas, and deference to the clergy is expected. There is strict adherence to speaking only when addressed and deferring to senior officials.


Religious Beliefs. The Vatican is a Catholic state whose population is virtually 100 percent Roman Catholic. There is a belief in heaven and hell and in just rewards or punishments for one's actions on earth. There is a belief in a supreme triune God, and various saints are honored. The final judgment and resurrection of the dead are tenets of the faith.

Religious Practitioners. The Catholic clergy are the major religious practitioners and can administer the seven sacraments, depending on their rank. Bishops can ordain other priests.

Rituals and Holy Places. The Vatican is a treasure trove of special buildings and shrines. Saint Peter's is the site of Peter's tomb and is built over the original basilica. The Sistine Chapel in the church features the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. The Lateral Palace, once the home of the popes, is another magnificent building. Saint Peter's Square is known around the world, and the pope often addresses the world from the square. It is also the site of many of his public masses. The religious calendar of the Catholic Church is followed, along with the rituals appropriate to that calendar.

Death and the Afterlife. The beliefs of the Catholic Church in a life after death, the existence of Purgatory, and the efficacy of prayers for the dead are followed.

Medicine and Health Care

The Vatican has an up-to-date health care system that draws on specialists from around the world.

Secular Celebrations

There are no secular holidays. The major religious feasts are Christmas and Easter, and there are other major holy days and feast days of saints.

The Arts and Humanities

The Church has a long history of supporting the arts. The Vatican is among other things a museum. Its library is a major source of knowledge about the Renaissance and European history.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Vatican is more interested in social sciences than physical sciences. It is not opposed to the physical sciences and has stated its general support for the physical sciences and their compatibility with religion. Within the Vatican, there has been more immediate application of the social sciences, particularly sociology, psychology, and political science.


"Future Doubtful for Bishops' Conferences." America 179 (4): 3, 1998.

Hersey, George L. High Renaissance Art in St. Peter's and the Vatican: An Interpretive Guide , 1993.

Hutchinson, Robert J. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican , 1998.

McDowell, Bart, James L. Stanfield, Elizabeth L. Newhouse, and Charles M. Kogod, eds. Inside the Vatican , 1993.

Reese, Thomas. Inside the Vatican , 1996.

Roncalli, Francesco. Vatican City: Vatican Museums , 1997.

Steinfels, Margaret O'Brien. "How the Vatican Works: An Interview with Thomas J. Reese." Commonweal , 123 (4): 10–13, 1996.

Stickler, Alphonso. The Vatican Library: Its History and Treasures , 1989.


Also read article about Vatican City from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

bonnie kong
I like the information, but just you have anything on food?..and do you have more information on marriage?...
yuna ha
I belive that you should put more cultures in it,as clothing, entertainment, and types of music...
world smallest country .I can not emagine that it shold be so small .But excellent and charming places.So my plan is to go the Vatican city and watch it .
Thank a lot .
Actually I am from Manipur Its so far from there,but i want to go to vatican city and watch it .I love your dress code and dress style .I never imagine it .
Vatican city is the smalest country of the world . But it had their own culture and tradition.
Information is good but needs more on food and culture
Tyler Endischee
Who rules this nation now?...
What type of government, governs this nation?...
Is it walled by bricks?...
UJu Ubah
I am writing a research paper on the Vatican and this
is very helpful. I wonder if you could provide info on how a typical
day in the Vatican is like or the way in which mass
is celebrated at the Vatican, any special traditions
outside of the regular mass tradition?
I would agree..There needs to be more dress code because of my project for school...
need more on food please i am doing school project and can get most of the information elsewhere :) not that i would... but cant find food anywhere!
need more on food please i am doing school project and can get most of the information elsewhere :) not that i would... but cant find food anywhere! hope you can find some info and put it on here!
George Faull
I really liked this website. I used alot of the information and it helped me alot.
I would like to know the everyday life of the inhabitant. What routinely or basically they do. How does their life go on about. As a centre of global Catholics how do they communicate. Do Bishpos and priest around the world visit the Vactican. Do they have any kind of forums, convention,core curriculum etc. Are the inmates been paid do they have vacation to visit their family and friends.
I imagine it being very crowded and walled, but it is a small country, meaning no harm.
This information was very useful, but it could use more, maybe more on culture acts, music, and what they normally wear for a casual look, thanks again for the information.
f .Hanna
Thanks alot I enjoyed it :-)
It was cool and helpful!!! but improve it
Great and interesting information, but there is nothing on lodging, food, or major attractions. There also isn't very much information on the art and artists. Bernini, Michelangelo, and more.
This link has ALMOST all I need. All you need are the customs and traditions! Unless I didn't look good enough, you had nothing directly on traditions. Please try to add some in, it would be good for kids with school projects or assignments. Thank you.
I'm doing a report on Vatican city and your site has a lot of formation
I am most likely correct on the fact that the Vatican has an extremely high crime rate, not a low crime rate. I believe it is a ratio of 1.5 people for every crime commited; also about 90% of a crime rate. Other than that I believe that this article was very well written and it was very useful to me. cx
Rev Father Michael W. Thomas, ODB, BCC, CPSP
I love Vatican City and Rome. As a Dominican Friar I lived at the Dominican General House Santa Sabina.
A ancient pagan temple hundreds of years before the Holy Father gave it to Saint Dominic. Founder of The Order of Friar Preachers. Aka. Dominicans.
The ancient history of the eternal city can be over whelping but enjoy what you can.
go out into the various Square at night and enjoy a coffee or glass of Italian Wine.
Walk with the people who come walk the squares at night.
many churches have various musical performances in front of the church. All is FREE to the public.
I visited Vatican City along with 10 person on the occasion of Easter-2012 and found very nice. Mostly people having desire to visit there but no proper arrangement at Government Level to facilitate the visitors. If any one window operation for pilgrimage would be established there so many people can visit there and also increase tourism and income.
Thnks to very very great information of vatican city and
Leslie Lackey
1What is the Pope' s responds to the SIRIUS PROJECT information?
2 Does Pope Frances believe God may have created other beings on other planets?
3 please tell Pope Fances I pray for his intentions and him, that he is loved and thank him for his commitment to the priesthood.
Nice information..please I need the web side. Am doing school project I need more information on food and culture and who rule that city because its a small country in world
I love da vatican city soo much. thank a lot for da info.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: