Vatican City

Vatican City is one of the most unique places in the world.  It is a country and a city as well as a place of religious importance.  At 0.44 square kilometers in size, it is the smallest country in the world.  With only about 850 citizens, it also has the lowest population of any nation.  Although it is tiny compared to most other countries, Vatican City is a very important place in the world because it serves as a home to the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Located inside of Italy, Vatican City is walled off from the surrounding city of Rome.  The city, established as an independent state in 1929, houses the religious administration buildings and servants of the Roman Catholic Church. Although this may sound as if the city is a lonely place, it is quite the opposite.  About 4 million tourists visit Vatican City annually.  Many of them come to see one of the most famous pieces of art in the world, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  About 20,000 people pass through the chapel each day to gaze up at the painting by Michelangelo, completed in 1512.

Despite being roughly the size of a golf course, Vatican City is quite independent.  It has its own post office, railway station, bank, and radio station.  These are built and financially supported from sales of souvenirs, publications, and museum admission fees.  Roman Catholics also make donations (called Peter’s Pence) to help out.  In 2008, Vatican City made about $455 million US dollars and spent about $355 million.  Almost 3,000 people work there each day to help keep the city’s services running.