At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

11 February 2016

Lateran Treaty

How the Vatican became an independent state inside Italy 

The boundary map of the Vatican City as it appeared in the Lateran Treaty, signed on February 11, 1929
The boundary map of the Vatican City as it appeared
in the Lateran Treaty, signed on February 11, 1929
An agree-
ment between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, recognising the Vatican as an independent state within Italy, was signed on this day in 1929.

The Lateran Treaty settled what had been known as ‘The Roman Question’, a dispute regarding the power of the Popes as rulers of civil territory within a united Italy.

The treaty is named after the Lateran Palace where the agreement was signed on behalf of King Victor Emanuel III and Pope Pius IX.

The Italian parliament ratified the treaty on 7 June, 1929. Although Italy was then under a Fascist government, the succeeding democratic governments have all upheld the treaty.

The Vatican was officially recognised as an independent state, with the Pope as an independent sovereign ruling within Vatican City. The state covers approximately 40 hectares (100 acres) of land.

The papacy recognised the state of Italy with Rome as its capital, giving it a special character as ‘the centre of the catholic world and a place of pilgrimage.’

The Lateran Palace, where the agreement recognising
the Vatican City as an independent state was signed
Photo: MarkusMark (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Prime Minister at the time, Benito Mussolini, agreed to give the church financial support in return for public support from the Pope.

In 1947 the Lateran Treaty was incorporated into the new, democratic Italian constitution.

During the Risorgimento, the struggle to unite Italy in the 19th century, the Papal States had resisted being incorporated into the new nation. Italian troops had invaded the Romagna in 1860 and the rest of the Papal States, including Rome, were occupied by the army in 1870.

For the next 60 years, relations between the Papacy and the Government were hostile and the status of the Pope had become known as ‘The Roman Question’.

Travel Tip:

The Lateran Palace was the main papal residence in Rome between the fourth and 14th centuries. It is in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, next to the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, the first Christian Basilica in Rome and now the Cathedral Church of the city. Some distance away from the Vatican, the palace is now an extraterritorial property of the Holy See, with similar rights to a foreign embassy.

The Via della Conciliazione was built on the orders of Mussolini
The Via della Conciliazione, built on the orders of Mussolini
Photo: Martin Falbisoner (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Via della Concil- 
iazione, the wide avenue along which visitors approach Saint Peter’s Basilica from Castel Sant’Angelo, was built on the orders of Mussolini as a symbol of reconciliation beween the Holy See and the Italian state after the Lateran Treaty was signed. Roughly 500 metres long, the vast colonnaded street designed by Marcello Piacentino was intended to link the Vatican to the heart of Rome. At the time it had the opposite effect as many buildings were demolished and residents had to be displaced.


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