Inside the Vatican: National Geographic Goes Behind the Public Facade

Updated April 8, 2004

Page one of eleven

The power of the place is inescapable—and a long way from its humble origins as a graveyard.

For nearly 2,000 years, its story has captured the imagination of millions. From here a religious faith grew to dominate the western world—crusades were launched, great inquisitions were convened, governments were made and broken.

It is an accumulation of remarkable buildings and art; it is the smallest sovereign nation, and yet one of the most powerful. If it had a gross national product it would be measured not in money, but in souls.

Its leader is Europe's last absolute monarch, but a man who is elected by his peers, a man who carries one of the most awesome burdens borne by any leader—the spiritual care of more than one billion people.

It is the seat of power of one of the oldest continually running organizations on the planet. Once the fulcrum of power, it wields it yet. It is where saints are proclaimed, where popes reign, where much of Western history can find its source.

It is a divinely inspired, human invention known as the Vatican.

Inside the Vatican: Front Page
St. Peter's Basilica
The Swiss Guards
The Pope's Day
A City-State
The World's Most Beautiful Stuff
The Holy See
Electing a New Pope
The Secret Archives
The Making of Inside the Vatican
Kids Activity Guide

Source: Excerpt from Inside the Vatican, a National Geographic Television special that airs in the United States on the National Geographic Channel and is available as a book.




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