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2 September 2014
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Vatican

View of the Vatican palace from above, looking over St Peter's Square

Bird's eye view
The Vatican City is the smallest state in the world. It is .44 sq. km in size, with a population of 932 (July 2006 est.)
Photo © Robert Aichinger

People in Saint Peter's Square surrounded by colonnaded buildings

St Peter's Square
St. Peter's Square was built by Bernini for Pope Alexander VII in 1656-67 as a place for Christians around the world to gather. The circular shape made by 284 columns symbolises the Church's embrace of all of mankind. Pope Sixtus V had the Egyptian Obelisk (left) moved to be in line with the high altar in 1586.
Photo © Emily Davis

Dome of Saint Peter's Basilica with statues of the saints along the top of the walls

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica, designed by Michelangelo, was the largest church in the world until the 1989 construction of Our Lady of Peace in Côte d'Ivoire, which was modelled after it. The church's dome dominates St Peter's Square.

Facade of Saint Peter's Basilica, framed by pillars with Latin legend over the doors

Entrance to St Peter's Basilica
The decoration of the Basilica was completed by Bernini. The columns are sandblasted regularly to keep them clean.
Photo © Molly Ellis

Looking up inside the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica showing the ornate painted frescos. Around the bottom of the dome is the Latin legend Tu es Petrus... (You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church)

Inside St Peter's Basilica
The church is over 200 metres long - greater than the length of two football pitches. It contains many important sculptures and paintings, including Michaelangelo's Pieta.
Photo © Warren Gibb

Inside Saint Peter's Basilica, an elaborate monument in bronze and surrounded by sculpture marks where Saint Peter used to sit

St Peter's Chair
Bernini and his assistants built this elaborate monument between 1658 and 1666. It was built to display a wooden chair that was thought to be where St Peter sat when instructing the Christians (but the chair was actually a throne given to Pope John VII in 875). The great bronze throne is flanked by angels and the Doctors of the Church (St Ambrose, St Augustine, St Athanasius and St John Chrystostom).
Photo © Tatyana Postovyk

Famous Michaelangelo painting of the creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In the middle, God and Adam reach out to touch each other's hand

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II to repaint the ceiling in 1508. It was finished by 1512. The ceiling has recently been cleaned and restored revealing its original bright colours.

A ceremonial guard wears a bright orange, blue and red Renaissance-style uniform with a black beret

Swiss Guard
The Guardia Svizzera are the guards who stand outside the Vatican. The corps was first formed in January 1506, under Pope Julius II. There are currently 110 Swiss Guards (2007 figure). 147 of them were killed during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

To join the Swiss Guard you would have to be Swiss, Catholic, male, healthy, unmarried, under 30 and at least 174 centimetres (5'8") tall, and have a professional or high school qualification, Swiss military training and an "irreproachable reputation".
Photo courtesy stock.xchng

A notice advertises 'Papal blessings' in several languages

Tourist attraction
Thousands of people visit the Vatican City every year. Nearby shops sell all kinds of souvenirs including papal blessings.
Photo © Mike Hally

Twin interleaved spiralling staircases with broad steps and carvings on the outside walls

Vatican Museum staircase
It is arranged in a double helix: one staircase leads up to the exhibits and the other leads down to the exit. The staircase was designed in 1932 by Giuseppe Momo.
Photo © Christian J. Stewart

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