Tradition holds that Saint Peter was crucified and died in Rome. Because he is recognized as the very first Pope, Italy had always been the home of the Papacy. In AD 326 a church was erected on the spot believed to be where Peter died and was buried.
When the Roman Empire collapsed, the church territories grew. These Papal States would expand from a single church and encompass large lands. By the 7th century AD large parts of Italy and France were under Papal control.
The Roman Question
The Italian unification changed the history of the Vatican. The Papal States were taken over by the monarchy. The Pope was left with only a single city at Rome. On October 1870, the city fell to King Victor Emmanuelle II of Italy. The result was that the Pope and the city became encircled and surrounded.
They were unharmed even though they refused to submit to the rule of the Italian monarchy. The entire situation became known as the Roman Question. It was so termed because the government could not decide what to do with the Pope.
The Lateran Treaties
The treaties in 1929 established important facts that altered the history of the Vatican. The first was recognizing its autonomy and own leadership, granting it state status. The other was recognizing Roman Catholicism as the state religion. In 1965 the Vatican Council II was held in the city. It was presided over by Pope John XXIII and was a landmark event for the modernization of the church.
The Papal Residence
The term “Vatican” is also used to refer to the Papal palace. It has been the official home of all Popes since 1870. The original residence was built by Pope Symmachus (498-514).
It was set next to the Basilica of St. Peter. Subsequent popes enlarged upon it, most notable being Sixtus IV and Alexander VI. Throughout the history of the Vatican, the palace has had renovations. Little of the site is actually used for residential purposes. Most of it is used for religious and administrative activities.
The palace is also home to some famous structures. One of the most important is the Sistine Chapel. Since its inception, it has been the place where the election of the new Pope is conducted. Through the years, several museums have been built there. They currently house priceless works of art and sculpture. The archives also contain some of the rarest and most precious literature in the world.
The city state is only 0.44 sq km. Its population is estimated to be 900. They are made up of the Pope and the clergy officials. The other half are comprised of some officials of the state.
The history of the Vatican has shown that the church has been able to hold on to its beliefs in spite of challenges. At the same time through the councils, has been modernizing as well.