Vatican City

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Vatican City

History

The Vatican City, situated within the city of Rome, is the smallest independent state in the world. Vatican City comprises St Peter’s Church, St Peter’s Square, the Vatican and the Vatican Gardens. Packed with history and artwork, the Vatican City is ruled by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. On April 19, 2005, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI.

A major portion of the Vatican consists of the famous St Peter’s Basilica whose Michelangelo designed dome (136m above the floor) is simple breathtaking. This magnificent basilica is the most sacred shrine that attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. Not only the proportions but the hundreds of works of Renaissance architecture held inside the basilica are sure to grab all your attention. St. Peter’s Basilica is situated in the centre bordered by palaces and gardens and circular piazza in the front. Near St Peter’s stands the Vatican Palace, the Pope’s residence.

The Vatican museum is the greatest art gallery in the world, famous for its Raphael Rooms, the elegantly decorated Sistine Chapel and its staircase. The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum, containing major works of art and valuable pictures are of the highest historical, scientific and cultural importance. Popes have been collecting some of the world’s most amazing art for centuries that are now part of the Vatican Museums.

Vatican City has its own army of Swiss guards that are posted at the entrance to the city to provide security and protect the pope. Dresses in colorful and traditional red, yellow, and blue stripe uniform, and responsible for the Pope's personal safety, the Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II on 22 January 1506.

Within the territory of Vatican City are the Vatican Gardens which account for more than half of this territory. The gardens, established during the Renaissance and Baroque era, are decorated with fountains and sculptures.

The properties of the Vatican City became a part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984.

Best time to visit

Vatican City is best visited in the months of April, May, October and November when the weather is at its best.

Trivia

If you fancy seeing the Pope, visit the Vatican City on Sunday to receive usual blessing from his apartment or on a Wednesday a more formal blessing. If you are in luck and arrive before him, you might even get to see him zip through the crowd in the famous Pope-mobile.

Timing

Basilica Timings

Open daily - April to September: 9 am to 7 pm and October to March: 9 am to 6 pm.

All are welcomed to attend hour-long mass that are performed several times a day, every day.

Museum Timings Open Monday to Saturday from 9 am -6 pm, closed Sunday except last Sunday of the month, when it is open between 9 am and 2 pm. The entry to the museum is free on Last Sunday of the month and this probably makes it the most crowded day of the month. The museum is closed on a number of religious holidays.


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