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5 Things You Might Not Know About The Vatican

The Vatican City is an independent city-state, and at only 0.19 square miles, the smallest nation in the world. It is one-eighth the size of New York City’s Central Park.

When a fire destroyed much of Rome in 64 AD, Emperor Nero used the Christians as a scapegoat. Hundreds of Chrisians were executed, either by burning at the stake, being crucified, or torn apart by wild animals. Among those crucified was St. Peter, leader of the Apostles and the first bishop of Rome, who was supposedly buried where the Vatican now stands.

In 1929, Mussolini and the Catholic Church reached an agreement with the Lateran Pacts. This allowed the Vatican to exist as its own sovereign state.

The Swiss Guard has been protecting the Pope since 1506. Garbed in colorful Renaissance-era uniforms, they were hired as a mercenary force, and even today are highly skilled marksmen who are all Swiss citizens.

In the 1980s, the Holy See purchased a telescope in Arizona to conduct astronomical research. The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope is one of the largest in the world, and it sits on top of Mount Graham in southeast Arizona.