Vatican City (Italian: Città del Vaticano), officially the Vatican City State, is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. With an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of 842, it is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.
It is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. Since the return of the Popes from Avignon in 1377, they have generally resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.
Vatican City is distinct from the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes), which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.2 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe. The independent city-state, on the other hand, came into existence in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy, which spoke of it as a new creation, not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756–1870), which had previously encompassed much of central Italy. According to the terms of the treaty, the Holy See has “full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction” over the city-state.
Within Vatican City are religious and cultural sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications. Within the territory of Vatican City are the Vatican Gardens (Italian: Giardini Vaticani), which account for more than half of this territory. The gardens, established during the Renaissance and Baroque era, are decorated with fountains and sculptures.
The gardens cover approximately 23 hectares (57 acres) which is most of the Vatican Hill. The highest point is 60 metres (200 ft) above mean sea level. Stone walls bound the area in the North, South and West.
The gardens date back to medieval times when orchards and vineyards extended to the north of the Papal Apostolic Palace. In 1279 Pope Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277–1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed this area with walls. He planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium).