When you think about what is the smallest state in the world your mind probably pictures it to be more of a village area the size of maybe 2-3 small cities, a country with a lot of greenery and basic buildings, with no skyscrapers in sight. A place where a couple of thousand people peacefully enjoy their lives, more or less disconnected from the rest of the world.

The World’s Smallest State

In reality, the smallest state is smaller than you could even imagine and it is none other than Vatican City. Located right next to Rome, Italy, the country is a far cry from a village. It is often still mistaken to be a part of Italy. It is best known for its spectacular architecture and art. This historic art is displayed in the state’s museums containing fresco-style Renaissance paintings in the Raphael Rooms, famous Roman sculptures like “Laocoön and His Sons” and Michelangelo’s beautiful ceiling art in the Sistine Chapel. The irony is that even though it is the smallest state in the world, it is also home to the largest Christian church in the world known as the Roman Catholic Church. Sistine Chapel is also the official place of residence of the Pope.

How small are we talking?

Well, try imagining Central Park in New York and now go a bit smaller. That’s right; with only an area of approximately 49 hectares or 121 acres, the state makes its mark as the world’s smallest internationally recognized state. It is not only the smallest in terms of size but also with respect to population. Picture the number of kids in an average high-school class and there you have it, the population of Vatican City. According to data collected in 2019, there are only 825 people currently residing in the state making its population density 942 per square kilometer. It is surrounded by the Tiber River from one side, located on its west bank, and is land-locked by Italy from the other.

A little history

Before the state came into being, there was a long-standing feud between the Italian government and the popes of the Catholic Church. Both parties wanted to have complete power in the region. Finally, on the 11th of February, 1929, Pope Pius XI and head of the Italian government, Benito Mussolini, signed a treaty known as the Lateran Pacts. This stated that Vatican City would be recognized as a separate sovereign state if the pope would also recognize the Kingdom of Italy. This is the reason for almost 75 percent of Vatican City residents are clergy members. To this day, Vatican City is an absolute monarchial state, meaning it is governed by the Pope, also known as the Bishop of Rome who is the head of the Catholic Church.