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Vatican City (/ˈvætɪkən/ (listen)), officially the Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano; Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae), is an independent city-state and enclave surrounded by Rome, Italy. The Vatican City State, also known simply as the Vatican, became independent from Italy with the Lateran Treaty (1929), and it is a distinct territory under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See, itself a sovereign entity of international law, which maintains the city state's temporal, diplomatic, and spiritual independence. With an area of 49 hectares (121 acres) and a population of about 825, it is the smallest state in the world by both area and population. As governed by the Holy See, the Vatican City State is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state (a type of theocracy) ruled by the pope who is the bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. After the Avignon Papacy (1309–1377) the popes have mainly resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.

The Holy See dates back to Early Christianity and is the principal episcopal see of the Catholic Church, which has approximately 1.329 billion baptised Catholic Christians in the world in the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches. The independent state of Vatican City, on the other hand, came into existence on 11 February 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. (Full article...)

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The San Giovanni in Laterano square with the Lateran Palace (left) and the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (right)
The Lateran Palace (Italian: Palazzo Laterano), formally the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran (Italian: Palazzo Apostolico Lateranense), is an ancient palace of the Roman Empire and later the main Papal residence.

Adjacent to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the cathedral church of Rome, the Lateran Palace is now occupied by the Museo Storico Vaticano which illustrates the history of the Papal States. The Lateran Palaces also houses the offices of the Vicariate of Rome, as well as the residential apartments of the Cardinal Vicar, the Pope's delegate for the daily administration of the Diocese of Rome. Until 1970, the palace was also home to the important collections of the Lateran Museum, now dispersed among other parts of the Vatican Museums.

From the fourth century, the Palace of the Lateran on Piazza San Giovanni in southeast Rome was the principal residence of the Popes, and continued so for about a thousand years.

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Stamp vending machine (Poste Vaticane).jpg
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The Vatican post office has operated its own postal service and issued its own postage stamps since 1929. Pictured is the stamp vending machine of the Vatican Postal Service.

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Vatican Palace
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Vatican Palace: the gardens from the museum.
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