Here we are – in the smallest country in the world! The modern history of the Vatican is summarized well in Lonely Planet: Europe on a Shoestring, pp. 641-642:
Covering just 0.44 sq km, the Vatican is all that’s left of the papal States. For more than a thousand years, the papal States encompassed Rome and much of central Italy, but after Italian unification in 1861 the pope was forced to give up his territorial possessions. Relations between Italy and the landless papacy remained strained until 1929 when Mussolini and Pius XI signed the lateran Treaty and formally established the Vatican State.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the greatest church on earth, which now stands erect inside the Vatican, was first built by Constantine to commemorate the crucifixion of St. Peter (one of the twelve disciples of Jesus) under the tyrant Nero (c. 64-67 CE).
Around St. Peter’s Basilica are those Swiss Guards dressed in colorful uniforms. According to the guide book, the prerequisites for choosing those guards are moral reliability, physical integrity and aesthetic appearance. I wonder why the very last criterion is required to be a Swiss Guard?? (more…)