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Introduction

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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 the Holy See's independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Vatican City 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 805, it is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population.

As governed by the Holy See, the Vatican City 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.

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Vatican Palace
Credit: Lalupa
Vatican Palace: the gardens from the museum.

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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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Specola1.jpg
Credit: Rb85

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.

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.
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