When I first visited Europe in my early twenties, I did so as part of an 18-35 consignment that crammed approximately 712 countries into two days.
Now I may be exaggerating slightly here, but it really was like a Cliffs Notes tour of the continent. Get in and out of each country fast, buy a tacky souvenir and don’t learn much about the culture, history and people. Of course this lack of insight could also have been because we were inhaling our own body weight in schnapps every day! But I digress.
On this tour – where our trip song was the Friends theme – we did get to visit a few places that had long been on my bucket list. And one of them was the Vatican. Not because I’m overly religious, but because I thought there would be something awe-inspiring about the heart of Catholicism. Even if the Sistine Chapel was smaller than I expected and the gypsies outside more sly.
Anyway, I got to thinking about that trip went I was sorting through travel memorabilia and found a bottle of holy water I’d bought from the Vatican, along with rosary beads. And it reminded me I’d always been curious about whether it actually is the world’s smallest country. The answer is – yes. All 0.2sqm of it!
As the Vatican City State’s official website explains …
“Vatican City State was founded following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11, 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.”
Here’s some other cool facts I discovered:
- The population of Vatican City is about 800 people, more than 450 of whom have Vatican citizenship.
- About half of the Vatican’s citizens do not live inside Vatican City. Because of their occupations (mostly as diplomatic personnel), they live in different countries around the world.
- Vatican City has its own flag and anthem.
- Its official hymn – chosen on October 16, 1949 by Pope Pius XII – is Charles Gounod’s Pontifical March.
- Cars registered in the Vatican Automobile Register have one of two sets of initials – 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. The international abbreviation is V.
- Vatican City mints its own coins and issues its own stamps.
- It has a full complement of services – from a pharmacy and television centre to a telephone service and philatelic and numismatic office.
You can read more about Vatican City here.
BTW, for the record, the top three list of the world’s smallest countries is rounded out by Monaco in Europe (0.7sqm) and Nauru in the Pacific (8.5sqm)