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Vatican City (/ˈvætɪkən/ (About this soundlisten)), officially the Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano; Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae), is an independent city state and enclave located within 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 (1309–1437), 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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A 360 panorama of Rome taken from the top of St Peter's Basilica.
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The flag of Vatican City was adopted on June 7, 1929, the year Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, creating a new independent state governed by the Holy See. The Vatican flag is modeled on the flag of the earlier Papal States.

The flag consists of two vertical bands, one of gold (hoist side) and one of white with the crossed keys of Saint Peter and the Papal Tiara centered in the white band. The crossed keys consist of a golden and a silver key, in which the silver key is placed in the dexter position. The flag is one of only two square country flags in the world, the other being the flag of Switzerland. The yellow and white stripes break the heraldic rule of tincture.

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The Vatican Observatory (Specola Vaticana) is an astronomical research and educational institution supported by the Holy See. Originally based in the Roman College of Rome, it now has headquarters and laboratory at the summer residence of the Pope in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, and an observatory at the Mount Graham International Observatory in the United States.[1]

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A post-restoration section of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel which includes the two panels reproduced above.
A post-restoration section of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel which includes the two panels reproduced above.

The restoration of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel was one of the most significant art restorations of the 20th century. The Sistine Chapel was built by Pope Sixtus IV within the Vatican immediately to the north of St. Peter's Basilica and completed in about 1481. Its walls were decorated by a number of Renaissance painters who were among the most highly regarded artists of late 15th century Italy, including Ghirlandaio, Perugino, and Botticelli. The Chapel was further enhanced under Pope Julius II by the painting of the ceiling by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 and by the painting of the Last Judgment, commissioned by Pope Clement VII and completed in 1541, again by Michelangelo. The tapestries on the lowest tier, today best known from the Raphael Cartoons (painted designs) of 1515–16, completed the ensemble.

Together the paintings make up the greatest pictorial scheme of the Renaissance. Individually, some of Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling are among the most notable works of western art ever created. The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and in particular the ceiling and accompanying lunettes by Michelangelo have been subject to a number of restorations, the most recent taking place between 1980 and 1994. This most recent restoration had a profound effect on art lovers and historians, as colours and details that had not been seen for centuries were revealed.
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  1. ^ Johnson, George (2009-06-22). "Vatican's Celestial Eye, Seeking Not Angels but Data". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-24.