The Vatican is one of the most interesting places to visit while in Rome, since it is not only a city itself found within Rome, but is in fact, a whole other country, separate from Italy. The reason that this city has country status is that it is the central home of the Catholic Church and as such it reserves the right to maintain its own law based on the rules of God laid out in the bible. Also, it is ruled over by the Pope, who is seen as the leader, appointed by God, of Catholicism. The country is also the only nation of the world that is not a member of the United Nations worldwide peacekeeping force, since it has been suggested that due to their minimal size and resources, as well as their commitment to moral and spiritual rules, they could not fulfil all of the responsibilities of being a member state, particularly in cases when the use of military force is necessary. They have however, since been made permanent observers of UN decision-making and do have some sway in the making of decisions.
Within the Vatican live mostly just Catholic priests and of course the Pope. The guards to the city, known as the Swiss Guard are exclusively Swiss due to an agreement between the Catholic Church and Switzerland. They must also all be Catholic, unmarried males between the ages of 19 and 30. Each is equipped with only small weapons and a Halberd, a traditional axe-like stick. Most visitors to the city/country are restricted to certain areas including the key religious sites and an educational museum.
Amongst the places to visit in this noble and divine city, St. Peter’s Basilica is the most immediately obvious. This is the Basilica where the Pope holds his own services for the Vatican and it the longest Catholic Church in the world at 730 ft and along its floor are found markers showing the lengths of other churches comparatively. At the centre of the church is the Baldachin, a large decorative canopy that covers the altar, and the Pope alone is allowed to step on this altar. Also found inside is a Bronze statue of St. Peter, that is said to heal pilgrims who rub his feet.
Having visited the main Basilica, you can also enter the very large museum nearby. This appears deceptively small on entry, and in reality would take an entire day to look around the whole thing in itself, but if you are selective about what you want to see you should have a good time. Following through one exhibit of the museum, you will have the chance to visit the Sistine Chapel. Though be warned, sometimes the only entrance to this part of the museum involves a long walk through several other galleries first, so if you’re getting tired or it’s near the end of the day, you may not want to spend too long looking at each exhibit here.
Also nearby the Vatican is the Castel Sant'Angelo, which does offer some good views and interesting architecture. This castle is connected to the main city by a long wall, which in the past, the Pope would escape along if the main city was attacked, so that he could take refuge in the strong castle at the other end. On your way out of the city, you may also wish to stop of at the Post Office, where you can buy and send a postcard from the Vatican itself, so for any postcard or stamp collectors out there, this is your opportunity to get the stamp of the Vatican, which features a portrait of the Pope. Outside the main city you will find an assortment of souvenir shops and restaurants to relax a bit after a long day of highly cultured sightseeing.
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