Top 11 Things About Holy See You Should Know

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Many people quite often confuse The Holy See with the Vatican City. They are not the same thing. The Vatican City is a state located within the Italian city of ... read more...

  1. The first thing about Holy See you should know is that is the smallest fully independent nation-state globally, but that's not the only thing that makes it an attractive tourist destination. The city has secrets that it has kept for many centuries, and you will want to know about them. This place's incredible and complex history will amaze you because the Vatican was not always so small. It will be confirmed by documentaries about the Vatican and its history.

    Earlier, in the middle of the XIX century, the Papal region occupied about 44 square kilometers. Because of the struggle for Italy's unification, after ten years, most of the Papal lands officially became part of Italy. Despite its size, the Vatican is governed as an absolute monarchy headed by the Pope. It also mints its euros, prints its stamps, issues passports, and license plates, manages the media, and has its flag and anthem. The state is not capable only of taxation, but the payment for tickets to the Vatican and museums, and the sale of stamps and souvenirs bring income to the state.

  2. The truth is that the Catholic Church has a unique status in the world because of its religious and political influence. The Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church, is both a political and religious leader. He is the head of both the Vatican City and the Holy See.

    While the Vatican City and Holy See are often mistakenly used interchangeably, the two are distinct. The Vatican City is a city-state, meaning that it is a distinct geographical entity and the world’s smallest country by population and size, with the Pope as the head of state. However, Holy See is not a geographic region or country, but a sovereign entity and the jurisdiction of the Pope. It is the central governing body of the worldwide Catholic Church, headquartered in Vatican City. So, Vatican City is used when referring to a country while Holy See is used when referring to the area governed by the Bishop of Rome, which includes the Vatican and the entire Catholic Church.
  3. Another thing about Holy See you should know is that is a paradise for book lovers. If you remember all these films about the Vatican, then the main characters definitely needed to visit this state for some secret and ancient manuscript or book. This opinion created by Hollywood is partly true because the Vatican Library houses one of the world's largest book collections. It is itself part of the Vatican Museums.

    The Vatican library is notable for its largest archive of texts in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Founded in 1475 by Pope Sixtus IV, the Vatican library is still used for research and is open to scholars. The library has more than 1.1 million printed books and 75,000 historical manuscripts, the oldest of which date back to the first century. With so many books, the length of all its shelves is 42 kilometers. With the collection growing by about 6,000 books each year, the library may soon need even more space.
  4. Such a tiny state as the Holy See has a naturally insignificant population of Holy See city, distinguishing visitors from residents. Therefore, you should consider the Holy See dress code and its other rules. It is rare to visit the Holy See without noticing a dozen tourists in clothes covering their bare shoulders and knees. Be prepared for the modest clothing required to enter the Basilica, museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican gardens. Low-cut or sleeveless shirts, above-the-knee shorts, and mini skirts are also not allowed.

    The other entry rules are just as simple. Prohibited items include luggage and backpacks, umbrellas, knives, scissors, other sharp tools, food and beverages, video cameras, camera tripods, and selfie sticks. Please leave them in the free wardrobe of local attractions. Photography without a flash is welcome in the Vatican museums. Still, in the Sistine Chapel, all photography is prohibited, even with a mobile phone, and video shooting is not permitted in all the previously listed places.
  5. An interesting thing about Holy See you should know is museums. It will not make you bored, but one of them will certainly teach you patience. It's a little funny to realize that Vatican museums occupy a significant part of the country, but it's true. There are dozens of galleries in several buildings. It becomes even more difficult to understand them if you are in a huge crowd early in the morning. And the queues to buy a ticket, if you didn't book online, will take another hour, if not more.

    If you want to take your time exploring all the magnificent works of art, arrive early and be one of the first to enter the museum. But even here, for a complete tour of the Vatican Museum, you will need 5 hours of your precious time. It is ironic if you think about how small the Vatican is on the map and how long the local merits survey can take.
  6. An essential aspect of any trip is naturally the purchase of souvenirs. And souvenirs are the thing about Holy See you should know. Tickets to the Vatican and Vatican museums are not very suitable for souvenir items, but the postage stamps and coins of the Vatican are famous for their variety and are also very rare. To take them with you is to keep the precious parts of the holy city for a very long time.

    You can get great stamps and coins for your family and friends as souvenirs. You can also buy rosaries, crucifixes, and books that are allowed for sale. There are many places in the Vatican where you can also find art attributes, such as rare paintings, figurines, and pendants, which will reveal interesting facts about Vatican city without words. Also, Popes souvenirs (with images of Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II), rose-scented rosaries from Rome, Italy with Pope Francis images rosary cases of Rome, made in Italy magnets, etc. are also good choices.
  7. The Gardens of the Holy See is the thing about Holy See you should know. Because it is the most relaxing place where both the Holy See population and guests can enjoy its beauty. They are ancient artistic treasures that exist over the centuries. Since the mid-1600s Vatican Gardens is a living symbol of art for the Vatican State. The gardens cover approximately 23 hectares, about half of the city. The highest point is 60 meters above mean sea level. Stone walls bound the area in the North, South, and West. The gardens and parks were established during the Renaissance and Baroque eras and are decorated with fountains and sculptures. There are some buildings, such as Vatican Radio and the Governor's Palace, within the gardens.

    For centuries, its botanical and architectural uniqueness and magnificence have been cared for by the best gardeners in the world. However, the gardens are a somewhat private area of the Vatican; they are not always accessible to the public; they can only be visited on very special private visits.
  8. The Swiss Guard is the smallest Army in the world responsible for the security of the Pope. They serve as personal escorts and guards for the Vatican and the Papal Villa. Soldiers, hired by the Roman Catholic Church under the Pope's direction, to whom they are sworn in at a ceremony in the Belvedere Courtyard. As is usually the case with any elite military corps, the competition for inclusion in the Swiss Guard is very high.

    Recruits must be unmarried Catholic men with Swiss citizenship, between the ages of 19 and 30, and at least 1.75 meters tall. They must have a professional diploma or higher education and have completed basic training in the Swiss Armed Forces. If you've watched a couple of movies about the Vatican, you probably know that these guards' uniform is not quite ordinary. It usually includes blue doublets and blue berets, but they don the colorful Renaissance uniforms they are famous for at ceremonies.
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    Of course, long and informative excursions require constant recharging with food and food is the thing about Holy See you should know. It is forbidden to bring food and drink to Vatican museums. However, most of the Vatican area is packed with courtyards and grass-covered parks where you can eat. A great idea to save money is to buy sandwich ingredients at a local store while you're in Rome and stack them while sitting on one of the benches in the Vatican parks. It will also save you time in between the attractions.

    If you want to conquer a couple of local Vatican restaurants and do not mind spending time in them, you should choose places less crowded with tourists. But it is worth remembering that the Vatican is a tiny population and every "other" here is a potential tourist and a source of profit, so do not be surprised by some prices in catering establishments.

  10. Last but not least, the thing about Holy See you should know is the best time to visit. The best time to visit the Holy See is from May to October, not including August, when the most popular galleries in museums, such as the Raphael Halls and the Sistine Chapel, are open to a limited number of visitors who pre-book tickets. 8:00 AM is the best time to get there.

    Every day, up to 30,000 people who want to mark the Vatican on the map as an already conquered country visit St. Peter's Basilica, the epic center of Renaissance Catholicism, as well as the 54 galleries of the neighboring Vatican museums, filled with masterpieces. Since they've all read the same guidebooks, most of them arrive early in the morning to do the galleries first. Hence the queues are winding around the block. Therefore, you can postpone your visit to the basilica until noon.
  11. The last thing about Holy See you should know is Christmas Festival. Apart from being known to be the world’s smallest country, the Vatican city largely grabs eyeballs for its Christmas celebration and festive rituals. This wonderful nation with immense cultural and religious significance owes great to the Catholics all over the world. The nation which is also known for its architectural wonders is one of the most visited places during Christmas. In this country which is the home to Pope, Christmas is one of the most celebrated festivals in Vatican City. The Christmas celebrations in the Vatican start with the Novena which comes eight days prior to the festival and closes on Christmas day. It is the day when the people of the Vatican, irrespective of young and old set out to Vatican square to seek the blessings of the Pope.

    Well-lit markets, decked up Christmas trees, soothing Christmas carols, and lively masses, Christmas is a magical 21-day affair in the Vatican city. Every year, there’s a different Nativity scene curated by skilled artists and displayed at the center of Peter St. Peter’s Square. The nativity scene is a display of figurines and models that represent baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, farm animals, angels, etc that stages the birth of Lord Jesus. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is a unique opportunity for anyone during the auspicious occasion of Christmas.
    LH DD/Dittrich
    LH DD/Dittrich

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