Whether you are Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc., The Vatican in Rome, Italy is an integral part of any religious belief. Located in the smallest country in the world, Vatican City sits atop 100 acres of an ancient burial ground dating back to 64 AD when Emperor Nero set the city of Rome ablaze for nine whole days, destroying much of Rome and killing thousands of people. However Emperor Nero instead blamed this grave tragedy on the Christians. Which became an easy and common thing to do as Christians were portrayed to be immoral people for not submitting themselves to the Roman gods, but rather devoting themselves to a Jewish criminal named Jesus. This initial persecution of the Christians was truly horrific, some mutilated by dogs and others covered in candle wax to illuminate as they burned.
St. Peter was one of the apostles, if not the most influential apostle, that fell to this tragedy. At his request St. Peter was crucified upside down on the cross since he didn’t consider himself worthy enough to die like Jesus did. Yet Jesus designated Peter as the “rock” upon which the church should be built, hence the name St. Peter’s Basilica, and though he never had the opportunity to rule as pope Peter is recognized as the first bishop of Rome.*
Subsequently Pope Paul VI announced the discovery of St. Peters tomb in 1968, and to this day his tomb still rests in the same spot, perfectly centered below the Michelangelo Sistine Chapel painting in the St. Peters Basilica.
Now instead of Nero’s attempt to kill/end Christianity, this horrific event in fact began to strengthen the ever-growing religion that’s blossomed so much throughout the past twenty one centuries, even after additional attempts of decimation.
It wasn’t until the fourth century that Emperor Constantine took a big leap and converted his rule to Christianity, taking ahold of the empire of Rome and ending Diocletian’s Great Prosecution of all and any Christianity. Constantine in return brought Christianity back to life, and had the St. Peter’s Basilica built in 326 over Peter’s tomb.
Now Vatican City wasn’t always the home and heart of the papal spiritual authority, rather it was the Lateran Palace across Rome where the popes lived together and in 1309 all moved to Avignon, France after King Phillip IV had a French cardinal arranged to be elected Pope.* Following were seven French popes all ruling from Avignon, and not returning to Rome until 1377. Meanwhile the Lateran Palace had burned and the Vatican started being used as a papal residence. However the Vatican needed much repair, it had gotten so bad that wolves began to dig up dead bodies and cows roamed Vatican Hill.
The beautiful St. Peters Basilica and Vatican City we all know today dates back to the 16th century, as the reconstruction of the basilica and additional infrastructure began to develop around 1506 carrying through till around 1626. This process took a while due to problems such as corruption from the head, deaths of those in charge, and even a German sack on Rome. Fortunately the project was finally finished in 1626 thanks to Michelangelo taking over construction and design. Almost two hundred years later in 1823, the basilica was destroyed by fire, but reconstructed just in time for Holy Year in 1825.+
From 754 through 1870 the popes use to rule a country known as the Papal States that covered much of modern day Italy, but Italian Rule wanted Rome as their own capital and conquered the Papal States in 1870. After this was much push back from the Catholic Church and as Popes refused to recognize Italian authority, a massive wall was built enclosing Vatican City from Rome. Popes proclaimed they were prisoners of the Vatican and refused to leave for sixty years. It wasn’t until 1929 and five popes later that Benito Mussolini finally ended the dispute by signing the Lateran Treaty, which established Vatican City as its own independent, sovereign state as well as compensations for the loss of the Papal States, and designated privileges for the Holy See throughout Italy, the Holy See being the Pope ruling at that time. The Lateran Treaty was very significant not only for the Catholic Church, but also the world as its influence began to cultivate more than just Catholics and Christians. Vatican City has become a place of righteousness, faith, and of all somewhere that millions of people visit every year despite race, religion, gender, or beliefs. Additionally the museums artwork is a major attraction that consumes every inch of space both inside and out of the museum, attracting the people that may not exactly care for Christianity or religion.
The Vatican has done a great job of establishing the smallest country in the world to be one of the most universally influential. The postal service was one of the first services to commence in the Vatican and truly spark international communication. Among this service, the Vatican also established its own currency, railway, banking system, newspaper, radio station, and government. This small country in the middle of a big city functions just like a regular country would with its own citizens, passports, laws, and jail.
In conclusion, Vatican City has grown to be a very prominent place and symbol for the entire world. Only acquiring more control as the years go by, the Pope is the man that holds this power and uses it both politically and religiously.

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