STATO DELLA CITTÀ DE VATICANO
THE TERRITORIAL SEAT OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF, ESTABLISHED BY CONCORDAT (THE LATERAN TREATY) WITH ITALY IN 1927 (REVISED IN 1985). IT IS THE SMALLEST SOVEREIGN STATE IN THE WORLD (108.7 ACRES).
The Vatican City State is the world’s smallest sovereign state and where the Pope resides. It has its own diplomatic corps, passport, laws, police, stamps, money and head of state, the Pope. The Vatican Concordat with Italy in 1928 established the City State, restoring the political autonomy of the Pope which he had enjoyed for centuries as sovereign of the Papal States. These States, which occupied a large region of central Italy, protected the Church from secular leaders who sought to manipulate her for their own purposes. They were lost to the Church when the forces of Italian unification entered Rome in 1870, causing Pope Pius IX to retreat to the Vatican. The Vatican Concordat settled the unresolved issue of the Pope’s temporal authority, by securing for him sovereignty over the Vatican, and certain other properties in and around Rome.
The Vaticanus is small hill across the Tiber River from the center of Rome. In the first century it contained a palace and circus, belonging to the Emperor Nero. It was in Nero’s Circus (an oblong racetrack) that St. Peter was martyred, crucified upside-down. He was buried in a near-by garden containing other graves. A shrine indicating Peter’s presence was erected over the grave around 150 AD, and Peter’s bones hidden in a wall to protect them from desecration. After the Edict of Milan in 311, the Emperor Constantine gave this imperial property to Pope Sylvester. The first, or Constantinian, Basilica was built on the site. In the 16th century this Basilica was torn down and the current one erected. Excavations under the main altar since the 1940s have revealed the pagan graveyard, the shrine over Peter’s grave, as well as discovered the bones of St. Peter, along with the ancient graffiti Petrus ibi est (Peter is here).