One of the most sacred places in Christendom and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican is an ecclesiastical, monarchical state ruled by the pope.
Today the Vatican City stands as a testimony to a history of two millennia and it is directly and tangibly linked with the history of Christianity. It has been the centre of Christianity since the foundation of Saint Peter’s Basilica by the Roman emperor Constantine the great in 4th century AD who was the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity. The Vatican at a later stage became the permanent seat of the Popes and is a pre-eminently holy city for Catholics, an important archaeological site of the Roman civilization and is a major cultural reference point for both Christians and non-Christians.
The name Vatican is ancient predating Christianity and is derived from Latin ‘Mons Vaticanus’
– Vatican Hill. It is supposed that this originally uninhabited part of Rome ‘the Ager Vaticanus
’ had long been considered sacred. The area was also the site of worship for the Phrygian Goddess Cybele before the advent of Christianity. During Roman times Agrippina the Elder got the gardens laid out in the area, Emperor Caligula started the construction of a circus that was later completed by Emperor Nero and a Roman necropolis was built in 1st century AD here. This area later became the site of martyrdom of many Christians after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD. Ancient tradition holds it that in this circus St. Peter was crucified upside down and in the 4th century AD the very first Church in Vatican - the Constantinian basilica was built over the same site where St. Peter was buried
. The Vatican city’s architectural history brings to the fore the prestigious development of an artistic ensemble of exceptional buildings like Basilica of St. Peter, the Belvedere court, Vatican palace, museums, library, the Chapel of Nicholas V, the Borgia apartment, the Sistine Chapel, the four Raphael rooms, the Pauline Chapel whose construction was spread over centuries with contributions from brilliant architects of renaissance and baroque periods representing a unique masterpiece of the modelling of space, integrating creations which are amongst the most renowned in mankind.