Facts about Vatican city:
1. Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.
Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over
100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park. Vatican City is governed as an
absolute monarchy with the pope at its head.
2. St. Peter’s Basilica sits atop a city of the dead, including its namesake’s tomb.
A Roman necropolis stood on Vatican Hill in pagan times. When a great fire leveled much of Rome in
A.D. 64, Emperor Nero, seeking to shift blame from himself, accused the Christians of starting the blaze.
He executed them by burning them at the stake, tearing them apart with wild beasts and crucifying
1. Caligula captured the obelisk that stands in St. Peter’s Square.
Roman Emperor Caligula built a small circus in his mother’s gardens at the base of Vatican Hill where
charioteers trained and where Nero is thought to have martyred the Christians. To crown the center of
the amphitheater, Caligula had his forces transport from Egypt a pylon that had originally stood in
Heliopolis. The obelisk, made of a single piece of red granite weighing more than 350 tons, was erected
for an Egyptian pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago.

4. For nearly 60 years in the 1800s and 1900s, popes refused to leave the Vatican.
Popes ruled over a collection of sovereign Papal States throughout central Italy until the country was
unified in 1870. The new secular government had seized all the land of the Papal States with the
exception of the small patch of the Vatican, and a cold war of sorts then broke out between the church
and the Italian government.

Why visit the Vatican Museums?
Visiting the Vatican Museums is an awesome experience that must be experienced at least once in a
lifetime. This visit is a long and interesting trip that will fill you with emotions with more than twenty
centuries of history and art. The Sistine Chapel, the rooms of Raphael and the art gallery (Pinacoteca) are
only part of a large number of priceless collections. You can buy the museum's ticket online and follow the
audio guide or visit these wonderful museums within a small private tour. By buying in advance the Vatican
Museums tickets you will enter skipping the line at the ticket office. Another highly recommended Vatican
guided tour is the one that includes the Sistine Chapel and the St. Peter's Basilica.
The Vatican Museums bring together one of the most impressive and extensive collections in the world
belonging to the Catholic Church, they have more than 70,000 exhibits in an area of 42,000 meters.
Important facts about St. Peter’s Basilica:
1) This isn’t the original St. Peter’s Basilica
The view from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
The imposing church you see today isn’t the original basilica of St. Peter. It’s actually… number two! The
reason? The original church was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine, the Roman empire’s first
Christian emperor, on the spot where St. Peter was thought to be buried. By the early Renaissance, though,
the (literally) ancient church was in serious disrepair. But it took a guy like Pope Julius II (someone with a
strong enough personality to go head-to-head with curmudgeonly Michelangelo!) to make the decision to
tear down the entire thing… and build a new one.

The result? Thousands of pieces of priceless, ancient art, from mosaics to statues, were destroyed. But the
“new” basilica, built from 1506-1626, is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.

2) St. Peter’s Basilica isn’t a cathedral—or the official seat of the Pope
True story: For all its importance, St. Peter’s Basilica isn’t the official seat of the Pope. Nor is it first in rank
among Rome’s basilicas. Both of those accolades go, instead, to San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran),
the mother church of the Roman Catholic church. But because of the size of St. Peter’s, and its location next
to the residence of the Pope, most of the Church’s most crucial ceremonies are held here instead.

Bernini’s baldacchino is even bigger than it looks!
3) Bernini’s baldacchino is 96 feet tall
The four-poster, solid-bronze canopy over the main altar, or the baldacchino of St. Peter’s, appears almost
dwarfed by the dome towering right above it. So you might think it’s not that tall. But it is. It’s almost 10
stories tall—it’s just that the dome, above it, is even bigger: 452 feet. (The baldacchino, by the way, also
uses no less than 100,000 pounds of bronze).

4) None of the paintings inside the basilica are actually paintings
Huh? No, really. Although, at first glance, the basilica’s interior appears to be elaborately decorated with
paintings—from frescoes in the dome to the huge paintings hanging on the walls—it’s not. Every single one
of those “paintings” is actually a mosaic, done with such painstaking detail, and such tiny tesserae (the little
pieces of glass making the mosaic up), that they only appear to be paintings.
5) Michelangelo’s Pietà is shielded by bullet-proof glass
The Pieta, in St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is the home to one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces, the Pietà (which, by the
way, he carved when he was only 24 years old). But not everyone’s been a fan of the stunning sculpture. In
1972, a mentally-disturbed man named Laszlo Toth attacked the sculpture with a hammer; he cracked off
Mary’s nose and broke off her arm at the elbow. The sculpture was painstakingly restored and returned to St.
Peter’s, but now, it’s protected by bullet-proof glass—even as other priceless sculptures in St. Peter’s remain
out in the open.
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