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Holy See 

Flag of Holy See

Last reviewed: 24 October 2007

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Map of Vatican City State

Area: 0.44 sq km (109 acres)
Population: 890
Capital City: Vatican City
Language(s): Business is conducted in Latin, Italian, English and French.
Religion: Catholic
Government: Ecclesiastical. The Pope exercises supreme legislative, executive and judicial power. The Government of the Vatican City State is known as the Holy See. The bureaucratic and administrative work of the Holy See is performed by the Roman Curia, which consists of the Papal Secretariat of State (the Cabinet Office equivalent), nine Congregations (or Ministries), nine Councils, three Tribunals and a complex of Offices and Commissions. The Roman Curia (Civil Service), is headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State.
Head of State: Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), elected 19 April 2005.
Prime Minister/Premier: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (since 15 September 2006)
Foreign Minister: Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States in the Papal Secretariat of State (since 15 September 2006).
Membership of international groupings/organisations: The Holy See has Observer Status in a large number of intergovernmental organisations or bodies, such as the UN, the Council of Europe, OAS and WTO. It is also a full member of the OSCE , UNHCR and the IAEA, among others.


  • The Vatican has its own typography - its own railway station – its own security force – its own fire and ambulance services – its own daily newspaper – its own florists – its own chemist shop – its own supermarket – its own health service - its own observatory (located at Castel Gandolfo) - its own bank – its own radio station which transmits in 34 languages throughout the world, with the biggest directional antenna in the world.
  • The Vatican Museums are listed as one of the top five tourist attractions in Italy and that visitors number around 3 million per year.
  • The Apostolic Vatican Library, dating from the 15th century, includes about 800,000 volumes, 80,000 manuscripts, 10,000 incunabula and 100,000 engravings.

    Vatican Library

  • The Vatican Secret Archives, probably one of the most historic and comprehensive collections in the world, holds documents collected over the centuries by Vatican representatives throughout the world.
  • The Swiss Guard, the only Military order remaining in the Vatican, were established in 1503 by Pope Julius II and that the same Swiss Cantons still provide the new recruits today; and that the colourful uniforms still worn today by the Swiss Guards are commonly believed to have been designed for them by Michelangelo in the 16th century, although this may be no more than legend.
  • The Quirinal Palace, (the largest palace in Rome) was the principal residence of the Popes from 1592 to 1870. When the Popes lost their temporal power at the Unification of Italy, they moved to their second largest palace, the Vatican, while the Kings (and later Presidents) of Italy took over the Quirinal.

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