Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Vatican is the smallest nation in the world

At approximately 44 hectares or 108.7 acres, the Vatican City is the smallest independent nation in the world. It was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756 to 1870). Vatican City is a non-hereditary, elected monarchy ruled by the Bishop of Rome, more popularly known as the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Catholic Church. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See and the location of the Apostolic Palace - the Pope's official residence. Thus, while the principal ecclesiastical seat (Cathedral) of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is located outside of its walls, in Rome, Vatican City can be said to be the governmental capital of the Catholic Church. The Vatican City State has the distinction of having the smallest and oldest regular army in the world, the Swiss Guard. It was founded by Pope Julius II on January 22, 1506, and originally made up of Swiss mercenaries from the Swiss Confederation. They currently number a little over 100 men and are also the personal bodyguards of the Pope. Recruitment is restricted to Catholic male Swiss citizens.

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