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