Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 21 October |
Saint of the Day: St. Wendel
Aleteia logo
home iconChurch
line break icon

Is the Vatican its own country?

saint peter's square

Sergey Zuenok | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/25/20

Vatican City is the smallest independent country in the world, covering roughly 100 acres and surrounded by the city of Rome.

The Catholic Church has had a tumultuous relationship with Roman government over the centuries. After initially being the subject of fierce persecution, for many years it was a powerhouse and had great political influence in Italy and Europe.

Then in the 19th century tensions began to rise again and by 1870 Rome fell and Pope Pius IX became a “prisoner” in the Vatican, no longer having any temporal land. Thus began many years of political turmoil in Rome, with the pope essentially under self-imposed “house arrest.”

Over the years the pope had his residences at St. John Lateran, the Quirinal Palace and the Vatican, but when the pope retreated, he was forced to find asylum in the Vatican.

Initially the Law of Guarantees was made in 1871 where, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “all residences of the pope on Italian soil should enjoy immunity and should be extraterritorial. It follows that the Vatican Palace must be immune and extraterritorial in the eyes of the Italian authorities. Consequently, all action of the Italian authorities must stop at the gates of the Vatican; the inhabitants of the palace cannot be taxed, subpoenaed, or summoned to defend themselves.”

It wasn’t until February 11, 1929, that the Vatican became its own independent country. This was ratified by the Lateran Treaty, signed by Italy and the Holy See, where it states the following:

Italy recognizes to the Holy See full ownership and exclusive and absolute sovereign power and jurisdiction over the Vatican, as it is currently constituted, with all its appurtenances and endowments, thereby creating Vatican City for special purposes and with the methods set out in this Treaty.

Ever since the Vatican has been independent and operates much like other countries, though on an extremely smaller scale.


Read more:
11 Vatican facts most people don’t know


Read more:
Here are 10 official titles of Pope Francis and their meaning

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
saint teresa of Avila
Zelda Caldwell
Now there’s a computer font based on St. Teresa of Avila’s handwr...
Philip Kosloski
A scientist describes the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
Agnès Pinard Legry
Three brothers ordained priests on the same day in the Philippine...
Philip Kosloski
How the violence in ‘Squid Game’ can impact your soul
Theresa Civantos Barber
12 Catholic Etsy shops to support as the holidays draw closer
Gelsomino Del Guercio
She’s a mom, grandmother, former postmaster — and a cloistered nu...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
A martyr’s last letter to his mother
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.