This tiny city-state is in fact the world’s smallest independent nation and is home to the Pope (also it’s head-of-state) and his closest staff, namely cardinals and his personal security group, the Swiss Guard – total population 826. It’s the only country in the world to be a continuous non-hereditory monarchy, since the Pope is not allowed to marry or have children to take over when he passes. Apart from these rather mundanely obvious facts, there are some surprising ones which fill this little patch of city with anecdotal intrigue.
1. The Vatican is less than 100 years old
Yes, you read right, while the Catholic Church has been around for centuries, the Vatican only came into existence in 1929 through something called the Lateran Treaty. It was in fact created by Mussolini which set up the Vatican as an independent state, compensated it for assets lost because of the treaty and banned the Pope from engaging in any international affairs.
2. The only country you can’t be born a citizen of
Unlike other states the world over where if one is born of parents who are citizens of that country one becomes a citizen of it, you can only be made a citizen of the Vatican by appointment to work in the city-state. If you lose your Vatican Citizenship when you lose your job and have no citizenship of another country, you automatically become Italian.
3. The highest crime-rate in the world
And you thought it was South Africa! Well, this crime rate is not based the highest number of crimes, or the severity of crimes but rather the highest number of crimes in relation to it’s population. Crimes usually include pick-pocketing and shoplifting – though there have been in recent years, an assasination attempt on the Pope, a murder of a member of the Swiss Guard and incedences of money laundering! With just over 800 citizens it’s no surprises that this rate is at over 130% per per person per year!
4. The Vatican issues it’s own Euros
The Vatican has long issued its own currency, in past it was the Lira but since the advent of the Eurozone, it took on the Euro and mints it’s own coins embossed with the Pope’s head. They don’t issue notes and only very few coins, so if you manage to find one, hold onto it, they’re very sought-after by collectors!
5. The only Latin ATM’s in the world
The Vatican bank, the only bank in the city, has it’s own ATM’s and since the administrative language is Latin, it’s ATM’s are in Latin. Those who’ve used them have reported that unless you can understand phrases like: “Carus exspectatusque venisti”, “you are welcome” in Latin, you’re going to have a hard time getting money out of them – draw cash before you enter the Vatican and hold on tight to it, lest those pick-pockets snatch it away!
Image of Swiss Guard from Saroy on Flickr