Culture of the Week: Vatican City

For this week’s culture of the week, we bring to you Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign state. This particular state also happens to be one of the most controversial in the world as well, because it is run by the Catholic Church and the  Pope, in this case, Pope Francis. While it is a very small state, it is also a very powerful one that influences many people around the globe. It is also one of the largest educational and humanitarian voices in the world.

For those visiting Vatican City or conducting business or medical services in the country, here are some facts and tips:
1. Vatican City is a Catholic state and the hub of Catholicism. Therefore, there are certain cultural expectations that are upheld, such as traditional Catholic values like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, self-control etc. Essentially,  Vatican City seeks to center every aspect of  = life around the life, lordship, and teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  This can come as a bit of a shock to non-religious visitors and those holding other worldviews and religions, but that is the reality of the culture. Vatican city is also a hub for pilgrimages and tourists. Aside from Mecca and Jerusalem, it is one of the most prominent religious sites in the world.

1a. Examples of etiquette: There is a dress code for those visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Here are the standards:  1. hats on lay men inside the basilica are prohibited, 2)  shorts/skirts above the knees are prohibited, 2) no sleeveless shirts 3)
sleeveless shirts 4)  no shirts containing profanity 5) No excessive jewelry 5) No use of mobile devices or smoking

2. This country is also home to some of the most famous arts, cultural and scientific hubs in the world, and has been placed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites.  As it is a hub of learning, it is wise to go in with an open mind.

3. Another interesting cultural fact about  Vatican City is that it consists predominately of males who have dedicated themselves to consecrated lives in Catholic religious orders and institutes. Also, there are two female communities of nuns that live in Vatican City. Other workers and personnel attached to the Holy See live outside of the city’s walls. The majority of the population consists of Italian and Swiss permanent residents, along with workers from Catholic communities around the world. There have been efforts toward gender equality, but men still hold the key positions of power.

4.  The major languages are Latin and Italian.

5. The Vatican’s core cultural identity is religious. It presents itself as transnational and universal. It has also sought ties with members of all ethnic groups, because of this identity.  The economy is based on religious work. The country receives contributions from churches and private donors from around the world. Major commercial activities are also organized around religious concerns and the sales of religious goods.  The church also stewards all land and governs daily affairs using the Code of Canon Law.

6.  The culture is also very hierarchical.  As such, there is an elaborate code of etiquette for approaching officials and religious leaders. Topics of serious debate are generally discussed at length until a consensus can be reached. Deferring to senior officials is also required.  Speaking only when spoken to by elders or seniors is also expected.

The music of the religious communities in the Catholic church are quite varied, which made selecting the song for this culture quite difficult. The link below will take you to a song by one of the consecrated communities of the Catholic church called the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The song is called “Brother”



The World Factbook: HOLY SEE (VATICAN CITY). (2017, January 12). Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from

Vatican City. (2017). Every Culture. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from

©Allison J. Weaver Consulting, LLC 2017


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