Vatican City: a Modern City-State

Study Religion in Vatican City, Italy

The pope is the absolute authority in tiny city-state of Vatican City, which is its own country, yet entirely within Rome. And while the Church has progressed over the millennia, gender equality remains a sticking point today. Consider volunteering with a women’s shelter during your visit to add an impact to your trip.

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Sojourn – Gain a better understanding of the community you’re visiting. Learn about different religions or spiritual practices. How do these impact the communities? How does religion or spirituality influence local traditions?

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Savor – Will you choose sweet or savory? Take the time to visit local markets and discover unique local ingredients. Learn how to prepare traditional meals & local favorites.

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Tip of the Tongue – Each morning, take the time to learn a few basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Learn how to write greetings & your name in the local script.

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A Wrinkle in Time – History influences our present. Discover the history of the country you visit. Hear the stories of your guides & their family history. Where do they come from?

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Journal Journeys – Take some time to reflect on the day’s events and document your journey. Spend a moment journaling about the day had & day ahead. These are memories for a lifetime!

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Culture – From local dances, festivals, or simple gestures to communicate – all of these make up a country’s culture. Learn and practice cultural norms & how to show respect in the culture you visit.

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Today you’ll arrive in Rome to start your week of exploring Vatican City. The city lies completely within the boundaries of the city of Rome, yet is an independent country. It’s been the center of the Catholic Church for a very long time — since the 14th century to be exact. Even before the construction of papal palaces and the like in Vatican City, it was a common pilgrimage site for early Christians as it’s largely regarded as the crucifixion site of St. Peter, the father of the modern church. 

You will board a tour bus this afternoon so that you can see as many of Rome’s most famous sites as possible in a short about of time. From the bus, you’ll see the Acropolis and its many ruins, you’ll pass the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and many other popular sites in the city. You’ll end the day with a group dinner. 

The day will start with a tour of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the main church within Vatican City. Construction on the basilica began in 1506 and took more than 120 years to complete. Most importantly for Catholics, the basilica is the burial site of St. Peter, the father of the Catholic Church and first ever bishop of Rome. Estimates say that about 200 popes and one saint are also buried on the grounds. The pope holds mass in the basilica several times a year, and those events bring thousands of people into the area. After your tour of the basilica, you’ll have the entire afternoon to explore St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding area. 

The group will tour the Sistine Chapel this morning, one of the most famous sites in all of Vatican City. The chapel is found within the Apostolic Palace which is the pope’s home. Chapel construction dates back to the 15th century, and today it’s used for selection of popes. Many would agree that the most breathtaking part of the Sistine Chapel is the ceiling, featuring a fresco created by master painter Michelangelo in 1508. The painting, titled “The Last Judgement,” took more than 4 years to complete.

After ample time at the Sistine Chapel, the group will tour several mausoleums within the basilica footprint that are believed to have been in use since 300 A.D. St. Peter’s tomb is located here, as are the tombs of Popes Linus, Anacletus, Evaristus, Telesphors, Hyginus, Pius I, Anicetus and Victor I.

Today the group will head out on a walking tour of Rome. Some of the sites that you’ll see along the way include Ponte Sant’Angelo, a pedestrian bridge used to reach Vatican City by early Catholic pilgrims. Decorations on the bridge include ten famous sculptures of angels. From the bridge, pedestrians have a perfect vantage point of Castel Sant’Angelo. This impressive, round monument is the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian and his family built around 100 A.D. It was often the site of reported angelic apparitions in ancient times. 

The Vatican Museums will take up almost the entire fifth day in the city. The museum is huge, with more than 20,000 relics and famous works of art on display in 54 galleries throughout the network of buildings. Within the collection, you’ll spot many familiar names like Raphael, Caravaggio, and others that completed significant works of religious art. The museum is also home to many Roman sculptures, a papal throne, the Gallery of Maps and the grand Bramante Staircase. 

Today, you’ll have a full free day in Rome. You might choose to take a closer look at many of the city’s famous sites. Perhaps you would enjoy venturing up to the Acropolis to see some of the oldest and best-preserved ruins in the world. You might also opt for a day of strolling through the city’s piazzas, eating the food, visiting the local shops and people watching. There is plenty to do to ensure your last day in Rome is well spent. 

It’s been an adventurous week in Vatican City and Rome. You’ve seen many of the sites considered most important to the Catholic Church, and you’ve also seen some of the most celebrated works of art in modern history. But all great adventures must come to an end. Your guide will pick you up from your hotel and deliver you to the airport in time for your departure. 

Traveling abroad to study religion in Vatican City is a must for practically anyone, but especially students of religious studies. Art lover, history lover, devout Catholic, adventurer — it doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll find something wondrous about this area. Spend an entire week visiting the most iconic sites in the city, and the most important sites and relics of the Catholic Church.


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7-14 Day
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