History of Vatican City
Updated: Jul 24
By now you should everything relevant about Vatican City (if you don’t go check-out our previous articles where we tell you what you cannot miss about this peculiar place). The last thing we think that is important for you to know now to have is a little bit of historical background.
Always keep in mind that the history of Vatican City is closely intertwined with the history of the Catholic Church and the papacy.The history of this place cannot be sum up in few words, so we tried to divide the majority of the events happened here in seven most relevant eras.
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History of Vatican City
Early Christian Era
The origins of Vatican City can be traced back to the early Christian Era. In the first century AD, St. Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was martyred in Rome and buried on Vatican Hill, which became an important site for early Christian worship.
Construction of St. Peter’s Basilica Era
In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine the Great legalised Christianity and initiated the construction of the first St. Peter's Basilica on the burial site of St. Peter. This basilica became the focal point of Christianity and the centre of the growing influence of the Catholic Church.
Donation of Pepin Era
In the 8th century, the Lombards threatened Rome, and Pope Stephen II sought the assistance of the Frankish King Pepin the Short. Pepin defeated the Lombards and, as a gesture of gratitude, granted the lands of the former Byzantine Duchy of Rome to the Pope. This event, knownas the Donation of Pepin, laid the foundation for the temporal power of the popes.
Papal States Era
The Papal States emerged as a result of various territorial acquisitions by the popes over the centuries. These states comprised a large portion of centralItaly, including Rome and its surroundings, and lasted from the 8th century until the Italian unification in the 19th century. The popes ruledasbothreligious and secular leaders, with their authority extendingbeyond spiritual matters.
Loss of the Papal States Era
In the 19th century, the forces of Italian unification, led by figures like Giuseppe Garibaldi, challenged the authority of the Papal States. Gradually, the territories controlled by the popes were absorbed into the new Kingdom of Italy. By 1870, the only remaining territory under papal control was Vatican City itself.
Lateran Treaty Era
Following the loss of the Papal States, the Pope confined himself within the walls of Vatican City, which became an independent city-state under the LateranTreaty of 1929. This treaty, signed between the Holy See (the governing body of the Catholic Church) and the Kingdom of Italy, recognised Vatican City as a sovereign entity with the Pope as its head of state.
In the decades that followed, Vatican City solidified its status as an independent state and developed its own administrative and legal systems. The Catholic Church and the papacy played significant roles in global affairs, and Vatican City became a symbol of spiritual and diplomatic influence.
Today, Vatican City is a significant religious and cultural site, home to St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and numerous priceless works of art. It remains an independent city-state with its own government, headed by the Pope, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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