Legislative and Executive Bodies

Legislative acts are carried out by the Pope and, in his name, by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State which also promulgates general instructions and regulations. Both are published in a special supplement of the Acta Apostolicae Sediswhich is the official bulletin of the Holy See.
The exercise of executive government is entrusted to the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State who, in this context, assumes the title of President of the Governorate.
The closest collaborators of the President are the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.
The Administration and Central Offices of the Governorate answer to the President.
In writing legislation and dealing with other important issues, the Pontifical Commission and the President of the Governorate can avail themselves of the assistance of the General Councillor and of the State Council.

Judicial Bodies

Legislation (n° CXIX) enacted on November 21st 1987 vests judicial authority in a Judge, a Tribunal, an Appeals Court and a Supreme Court, which exercise their authority in the name of the Pope.

Specific responsibilities are established by the codes of civil and penal procedures currently in force in Vatican City.

Vatican City in the Past

The term Vatican was used in ancient times to identify the marshy area on the right bank of the Tiber River, between the Milvio Bridge and the present Sixtus Bridge. During the monarchy and the republican age, the area was known as Ager Vaticanus. It extended northwards as far as the mouth of the Cremera and southwards at least as far as the Janiculum. In the Imperial age, from the 2nd century A.D., the toponym Vaticanum was applied to an area corresponding roughly to the present Vatican City State. During the Roman period, the area outside the city of Rome was reclaimed. In addition, many villas, Agrippina’s gardens, Emperor Caligula's (37-41 A.D.) mother's house and a wide necropolis were built along the main roads. In his mother’s gardens, Caligula built a small circus to let the charioteers train (Gaianum), which was later restored by Nero (54-68 A.D.). Tradition has it that Peter suffered martyrdom there in the great Christian persecution ordered by Nero in 64 A.D. Various tombs have been dug along Via Trionfale, the street which leads northwards from St Peter’s Square to Monte Mario, while along Via Cornelia, which led westwards, the necropolis with the tomb of the apostle Peter is located. The presence of Peter represents the topographic centre of the area insofar as it has always ranked among the most significant destinations for Christian pilgrims. Many Christians, led by their desire to be near St Peter, wished to be buried near his tomb. The necropolis was covered over during the building of the basilica dedicated to the Apostle, which was commissioned by Emperor Constantine (306-337 A.D.). This building determined the later development of the area.

After formally recognizing the Christian religion with the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine started construction of a great church around 324. The church had a nave and four aisles, a transept and an apse, at the centre of which the tomb of Peter was placed. Stairs and a four-sided portico for the non-baptized completed the structure. In the meantime Nero’s circus was gradually falling into ruin, partly because many of its stones were used to build the new church, which was rapidly becoming a new attraction in Rome. Some years later, in memory of Peter, Leo IV (847-855) built the first walls of the "civitas" which derived its name "Leonina" from him and which became the spiritual centre of medieval and renaissance Rome. Although the popes resided in the Lateran Palace during the Middle Ages, some buildings were built at that time in the area near St Peter’s. The first of these was constructed under the pontificates of Eugene III (1145-1153) and Innocent III (1198-1216). These were  then enlarged in the late 12th-early 13th century when the Leonine Walls were also restored. In 1309 the papal court was moved to Avignon. Rome and St Peter’s were abandoned for over a century. Although the popes returned to Rome in 1377, another fifty years passed before the city regained its former lustre. The possibility of completely rebuilding St Peter’s was first broached in the mid-15th century. Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) had the architect Bernardo Rossellino draw up plans for enlarging the Basilica, adding on an apse more prominent than the Constantinian one. The project had to be abandoned a few years later, when the Turks started to advance and Constantinople fell. Between 1477 and 1480 Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1492) started building a great chapel, named "Sistina" after him, decorated with frescoes painted by the major Italian painters of the time. It was inaugurated on 15th August 1483. Great changes were introduced by Julius II (1503-1513), who radically transformed the small city. He started to pull down the Constantinian basilica, began work on the new Saint Peter’s, and built the famous Belvedere Courtyard. His intention was to connect the small Palace of Belvedere, which was constructed by his predecessor Innocent VIII (1484-1492) and which stood to the north of the courtyard, with the cluster of medieval buildings to the south. Pope Julius also summoned Raphael and Michelangelo to Rome, asking them, respectively, to fresco the papal apartments and the Sistine Chapel. Work continued throughout the century. After various initial difficulties were overcome, the Basilica of Saint Peter was planned and built by Michelangelo (mid-16th century). Giacomo Della Porta then covered the area of the basilica  with a magnificent "vaulted" dome. Early in the 17th century the church was enlarged by Maderno, who added two bays to the longitudinal section. Bernini completed it in mid-century, designing the splendid square which was enclosed by two hemicycles of four rows of columns. These gave the square the present baroque appearance, and connected this place of prayer to the rest of the city.


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Vatican City Today

Vatican City State was founded following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11th 1929. These were ratified on June 7th 1929. Its nature as a sovereign State distinct from the Holy See is universally recognized under international law.

The Catholic Church carries out its mission of announcing the truth of the Gospel for the salvation of all humanity and in the service of peace and justice in favour of all peoples, both through the various specific and local Churches spread throughout the world, as well as through its central government. This is made up of the Pope and the Departments of the Roman Curia that assist him in carrying out his responsibilities towards the universal Church (identified as the Apostolic See or Holy See). The Pope lives in Vatican City where several of the aforementioned Departments are to be found. Vatican City State has the singular characteristic of being an instrument of the independence of the Holy See, and of the Catholic Church, from any earthly power. In a way, it is a sign of the Church’s supernatural character insofar as the structures of Vatican City are reduced to the minimum necessary to guarantee its functions.

The Pontifical Military Corps, except for the Swiss Guard, was disbanded by will of Pope  Paul VI, as expressed in a letter of September 14th 1970. The Gendarme Corps of Vatican City State is responsible for all police activities and answers to the State Authority. It is a civil, not a military, organization.

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The Vatican Flag

The flag of Vatican City State is made up of two fields, vertically divided in half: the yellow half flies alongside the flagpole, while the white half bears the papal tiara and crossed keys.

Pontifical Anthem and it's story

Vatican City State has its own flag and anthem like any other universally recognized, sovereign nation. On 16 October 1949 Pope Pius XII decided that Charles Gounod’s (1818-1893) Pontifical March should become the official hymn. At the time, the French musician and devout Catholic was already a famous composer, especially well known for his lyrical work Faust and his composition of Ave Maria.

The Pontifical Hymn
The music of the current Pontifical Hymn was composed by Gounod for the anniversary of the incoronation of Blessed Pope Pius IX to whom he was particularly devoted. The Pontifical March was performed for the first time on the afternoon of 11 April 1869 during celebrations marking the Pope’s jubilee of priestly ordination. On that day in St. Peter’s Square a large crowd had gathered for a special concert following the morning’s liturgical celebrations in the Basilica. The concert brought together seven pontifical bands with members belonging to seven different papal corps and regiments in Rome (Papal Gendarmes conducted by maestro Roland, Reggimenti di Linea conducted by maestro Baffo, Cacciatori conducted by Pezzina, Zuavi conducted by maestro Willimburg, Carabinieri stationed outside Italy, Legione Romana conducted by maestro Angelini, Reggimento Dragoni). They were accompanied by a chorus made up of over one thousand soldiers. The Pontifical March of Gounod was widely applauded and played numerous times, as the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported the following day.

Pope Pius IX received the greetings of numerous diplomats gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica with the five thousand faithful for the morning celebration. Later in the day, he appeared at the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica to greet the crowds applauding below and filling the square for the concert. The seven musical bands were lined up along the steps in the square and when the Pope appeared they began with “the new hymn written especially for the occasion by maestro Gounod and to be accompanied by a chorus of one thousand soldiers”, as announced by the Vatican newspaper the day before. In the past, whenever the Pope would appear, the bands would play the Triumphal March, the old anthem composed by Hallmayer. The new composition was immensely successful. On 12 April 1869 the Vatican newspaper reported that “the anthem was played again and again numerous times”. It was performed often after this event and became famous for its majesty and solemnity, almost of a liturgical character. However, it was only adopted as the official Pontifical Hymn 81 years later, even though many had wished it were done so immediately.

The Pontifical Hymn of Gounod, which was officially adopted on the eve of the Holy Year 1950, is quite different from the previous anthem composed by Hallmayer and reflects a style of that period consisting of a lively and bright rhythm, like that of a waltz. Pope Pius XII decided to change the anthem with the still well known Pontifical March of Gounod, given its religious tone thought to be more appropriate for the times. The music was performed for the first time as the new, official anthem during a solemn ceremony on Christmas Eve of 1949 which was also the vigil of the opening of the Holy Year 1950. The old anthem was also played almost as a sign of respect to mark its passing. The musical band of the Palatine Guard of Honor was lined up with all its divisions in the San Damaso Courtyard and performed the music after the order of the day was read out announcing the official change in anthem. The Palatine Guard of Honor was later disolved by Pope Paul VI along with the other corps of armed guards in the Vatican, except for the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

Today the Pontifical Hymn of Gounod is performed by a civilian band during the most solemn occasions concerning the life of Vatican City State and during ceremonies in which the Holy Father or one of his representatives is present.

It is important to underscore that the Pontifical Hymn is not to be understood as a national anthem. The words of maestro Antonio Allegra and maestro Raffaello Lavagna speak to the heart of many throughout the world who see in Rome the See of Peter.

The compositional and musical characteristics which make Gounod’s Pontifical Hymn so famously evocative were described by maestro Antonino De Luca, Director of the Palatine Band in the February 1950 issue of Vita Palatina with the following words: “The Pontifical March of Gounod, which reveals the strong personality of the author of Faust, is a composition with an andamento maestoso. The first part in F major begins with a well chosen sound of the trumpet, after which the entire orchestra joins in, signifying and underscoring an atmosphere of calm grandiosity. The second part, instead, has a new feeling of profound religiosity which comes from sense of spiritual primacy. The third part begins with a fortissimo which marks an almost urgent detachment from every earthly concern.”

The Lyrics of the Pontifical Hymn

When Gounod’s hymn was officially adopted in 1949, Msgr. Antonio Allegra (1905-1969), one of the organist’s of St. Peter’s Basilica at the time, composed a text in Italian, today commonly sung, beginning with the words “O Rome Immortal of Martyrs and Saints”. Interestingly, the Pontifical Hymn never had lyrics in Latin. However, to make it possible for the faithful around the world to participate in singing it using a more common language, a Latin text was created for Gounod’s Pontifical Hymn which begins with “O felix Roma – o Roma nobilis”, written by the Msgr. Raffaello Lavagna (1918-…), a Canon from Savona, Italy. The author found as inspiration for the text the many verses found in scripture referring to St. Peter. The Hymn with these new lyrics was performed for the first time in private by the Iubilate Deo chorus directed by Sr. Dolores Aguirre on 15 June 1991 in the presence of the Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Santa Maria di Galeria Broadcast Center of Vatican Radio, marking its 60th anniversary that year. The first public performance took place on 16 October 1993 in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. It was played by the chorus and orchestra of Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk of Leipzig, Germany, as part of the celebrations to mark the 15th anniversary of the election of John Paul II and the 100th anniversary of the death of Charles Gounod.


Automobile License Plates

There are two initials that identify vehicles registered in the Vatican Automobile Register: SCV, for vehicles belonging to the Vatican City State and Departments of the Holy See; CV for vehicles that are the property of Vatican citizens and individuals who, in agreement with Italian authorities, are allowed to register their vehicles in Vatican City. The international abbreviation is V.

Coins and Stamps

Vatican City mints its own coins and issues its own postage stamps.

By reason of a monetary Convention with Italy, which acted on behalf of the European Community on December 29th 2000, Vatican coins (with the exception of gold and silver coins) are legal tender throughout Italy and the rest of the European Union.
This Convention gave Vatican City State the right to use the Euro as its official currency, starting on January 1st 1999. Vatican City State enacted the appropriate legislation (n.CCCLVII) on July 26th 2001.The Vatican has an agreement with the Italian State mint (the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato) to mint its coinage up to a maximum of one million Euro per year.
In 1996, looking ahead to the Jubilee Year 2000, the Vatican began minting gold coins again. They had been issued regularly each year from 1929 until 1959. Since the Jubilee Year new gold coins have been issued annually.
The issue of postage stamps is not subject to special limitations, except those established by postage service agreements with Italy and those contained in international conventions, to which Vatican City State adheres.

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