Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Wednesday 17 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Robert of Molesmes
Aleteia logo
Art & Culture
separateurCreated with Sketch.

11 Vatican facts most people don’t know


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA | I.Media

Aleteia - published on 05/10/18

Some of these stats may surprise you, including how many ATMs are there!

The Vatican is far from being an amusement park for conspiracy theorists. In fact, most of the activity one finds behind its walls might be quite boring for a general audience. For instance, the mysterious aura surrounding the Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum — that’s the official full name for the Vatican Archives— might only be due to a mistranslation from the original Latin: “secretum,” far from being translated as “secret,” simply means “personal.” Whomever has ever had a secretaire (a secretary desk, an escritoire) might probably get a hint of what’s at stake here: the Vatican “Secret Archive” is a collection of personal documents, mainly private letters, chronicles and historical records of past popes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Dan Brown & Co.

Here, we wanted to share with you a list of 11 questions you might have always wanted to ask about the Vatican.

1. How many people live in the Vatican?

Exactly 605 people.

2. How many of those 605 inhabitants are priests?

Sixty-two lay people live in the Vatican, in addition to the 105 members of the Swiss Guard. The rest of its inhabitants are cardinals, bishops, priests, and religious brothers and sisters.

3. How many people work at the Vatican?

It is said that when a journalist asked Blessed John XXIII (pope from 1958 to 1963) how many people work in the Vatican, the pope paused, thought for a bit and replied, “About half of them.”

Now, jokes aside, 4,810 people work for the Holy See (in the assistance to the pastoral work of the pope in the world) and in the Vatican City. Like any other city, the Vatican has a supermarket, museums, a bank, and so forth.

The Holy See employs 2,880 people in 65 different bodies (Vatican congregations, pontifical councils, dicasteries, nunciatures, offices, and so forth). In the Vatican City alone, one finds 1,930 workers.

4. How many churches are there in the Vatican?

In addition to St. Peter’s Basilica, there are six other churches: San Pellegrino in Vaticano, Saints Martin and Sebastian of the Swiss, Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri, Sant’Egidio in Borgo, Santo Stefano degli Ungheresi, and St. Stephen of the Abyssinians.

5. How many museums?

Even if we refer to the “Vatican Museums” in the plural, one can argue the “Vatican Museum” is just one, comprising many different museums and galleries (such as the Pinacoteca Vaticana, the Pio-Clementine Museum, the Collection of Religious Modern Art, the Chiaramonti Museum, and the Etrurian-Gregorian and Egyptian-Gregorian museums). There are 54 galleries in total, including the Sistine Chapel.

The Museum contains roughly 70,000 works of art, of which 20,000 are on display, and currently employs 640 people who work in 40 different administrative, scholarly, and restoration departments.

Read more:
Are the Vatican Archives really “secret”?

As a side note, in St. Charles Palace one finds the Vatican film screening room (managed by the Vatican Film Library), in which popes, Vatican staff or guests attend film screenings. The screening room is an old church that was deconsecrated because there was not a pastoral reason to keep it active, as it is inside the Vatican. John Paul II, who attended plenty of screenings there, once said in reference to that old church: “there are only two places in the world where a church has been transformed into a movie theatre: the Soviet Union and the Vatican!”

6. How many buildings?

As far as we know, there is not an official number. But there cannot be too many in 0.44 sq km (0.17 sq mi), especially when one has to make room for the great St. Peter’s Basilica and its piazza. Keep in mind, also, that the Vatican City has 13 buildings in the city of Rome (including the Basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore and St. John Lateran), as well as the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi and Castel Gandolfo (the summer residence of the popes). These are extraterritorial buildings: that is, when you enter those places you are not in Italy, but in the Vatican.

7. How many radio stations are there?

Just one: Vatican Radio, with its different channels. It now forms part of the Secretariat for Communications of the Holy See, after the reform of Pope Francis. It was created in 1931 by the inventor of the radio himself, the Italian Guglielmo Marconi. It broadcasts on the internet in 38 languages, and employs a team of 355 people from 59 different countries.

8. How many TV channels?

None. The Vatican Television Center is not a television channel. It is a television production center, especially dedicated to covering the pope’s activities, sharing their signal with different television channels, the web and YouTube channels from around the world.

9. How old is the Vatican State?

The Vatican State was founded on February 11,1929, when the Lateran Treaty was signed. Its origins go back to the martyrdom of St. Peter in Nero’s Circus, which stood where St. Peter’s Basilica is today.

10. Why is the St. Peter’s Basilica the pope’s cathedral?

Actually, it is not. The pope’s cathedral — his church as Bishop of Rome — is the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, which is outside the Vatican but has extraterritorial status.

11. How many ATMs are there in Vatican City?

One. And it’s in Latin!

By Seth Schoen (Latin ATM Uploaded by h-stt) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.