The Holy See

Santa Sede


Vatican lira. One lira equals 100 centesimi. There are coins of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 lire. The Vatican lira is at par with the Italian lira, which also circulates as valid currency within the Holy See. Conversely, Vatican coins—similar in value, size and denomination to those of Italy, but carrying an image of the head of the Pope—are legal tender in Italy, and in San Marino, another tiny city-state in Italian territory. Despite this reciprocal arrangement between Italy and the Holy See, their monetary systems are separate.


Despite having no balance of trade figures, the Holy See registers a gross domestic product (GDP), which was estimated at US$21 million for 1999. The singular nature of the Holy See's economic structure has yielded considerable sums of money. In 1997, the CIA World Factbook recorded state revenues of US$209.6 million, against expenditures (including capital outlays) of US$198.5 million, thus registering an impressive budget surplus of US$11.1 million.


The Holy See imports almost all agricultural produce and other foodstuffs and all manufactured goods from Italy, which supplies all its water, gas, and electricity. It has no agricultural or industrial sectors and exports nothing. It therefore has no balance of trade statistics.



A Southern European state, the Holy See, or State of the Vatican City, is a landlocked urban enclave, situated entirely within the Italian capital city of Rome, which forms its only borders. With an area of only 0.44 square kilometers (0.17 square miles), it is approximately 0.7 times the size of The Mall in Washington, D.C. Outside the Vatican's walls, in Rome itself, is the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, together with 13 other buildings that belong to Vatican City and fall under its jurisdiction. The length of the country's border, formed by medieval and renaissance walls except for St. Peter's Square in the southeast, is 3.2 kilometers (2.0 miles). The state, city, and capital are one and the same.


In July 2001, the population of Vatican City was estimated at 890, with an estimated growth rate of 1.15 percent. The birth rate is extremely low by the very nature of the Holy See, which exists primarily as the center of authority over the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. Its citizenry is, therefore, largely ecclesiastical (relating to the Church), supplemented by (often elderly) officers and servants of the Church. However, other dignitaries, as well as priests, nuns, guards, and some 3,000 lay workers actually reside outside the Vatican. There is no such thing as Vatican nationality, although rights of citizenship are conferred on non-Italians, such as members of the Swiss Papal Guard who are the traditional sentries at the city gates. Passports, issued by the Holy See rather than the Vatican state, are for diplomatic purposes only, and possession of a Holy See diplomatic passport does not automatically entitle the holder to rights of entry, residency, or citizenship.

The official language of the state is Italian; the Papal Guard's language, which is made up of Swiss nationals, is German. Several other languages are spoken, and the official acts of the Holy See are documented in Latin.


Vatican City has no territories or colonies.


Bull, George. Inside Vatican. London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd., 1982.

Coppa, Frank J. Encyclopaedia of the Vatican and Papacy. London: Aldwych Press; Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

The Holy Father. <> . Accessed October 2001.

Holy See Mission: The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. <> . Accessed October 2001.

Hutchinson, Robert. When in Rome: An Authorized Guide to the Vatican. London: HarperCollins, 1999.

Pallenberg, Corrado. Vatican Finances. London: Peter Owen, 1971.

Tully, S. "The Vatican's Finances." Fortune. 21 December 1987.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <> . Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: The Holy See, July 2000. <> . Accessed October 2001.

—Olga Kuznetsova

Also read article about Vatican City from Wikipedia

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