“Where does the Pope live?” is one of the questions your kids would ask you whenever they see the pontiff on TV. If you’re not Catholic, chances are you found out about the Pope in your history classes. Whatever the case may be, the answer would be “Vatican City.”
The Vatican City is one of the smallest internationally recognized states in the world. It has a land area of 0.49 km2 or literally just 1/8th the size of Central Park in New York. The Pope, along with the Holy See, had treated Vatican City as the city state at the head of the Catholic faith since 1870. It officially gained independence from Italy on February 11, 1929. This was when the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy was signed.
Today, the Vatican is one of the few states without a standing army or any official armed forces. So, how did they survive World War I, World War II, and defend themselves if they were to be attacked? More so, who guards the state during the normal, day-to-day occasions when tourists arrive within its borders?
The More Ancient Papal Defenders
No, the papal defenders isn’t a football team, contrary to what it might sound like. Before the Vatican state existed, there thrived the Papal States, otherwise known as the “Stato Pontificio.” These were parcels of land given to the Pope by kingdoms heavily inspired by Christianity.
Such leaders were Charlemagne – King of the Franks, Pepin the Short, and other Christian kings who were after the blessing of the Pope with their numerous undertakings. By the end of its time as the collective territories of the Pope until around the 1870s, as Italy had invaded them, it had amassed the majority of modern-day Italy.
Well then, how did it last so long throughout 756 to 1870 in terms of military capability? The Papal States had a military back then. It was composed of religious volunteers and mercenaries from allies around their territories. Some of these volunteers were from religious, military orders such as the famed Knights Templar, Knights Hospitaller, and the Teutonic Knights, all of whom fought in the Crusades.