7 Things You Didn’t Know (or Have Forgotten) About the Vatican

As we wait for a two-thirds-plus-one vote, my mind keeps drifting back to Rome. When the cardinals reach a consensus, white smoke will appear in the Sistine Chapel’s chimney and…wait a minute…the Sistine Chapel doesn’t have a chimney.

They attached a chimney to the Sistine Chapel just for that iconic white smoke! Pageantry at its finest. But enough of that. Let’s get to the fun part.

I bet you didn’t know (or forgot) that:

1. The Swiss Guard can get married. But as recruits, when they make the oath, they must be single. It isn’t until after 3 years of service that a member of the Swiss Guard can marry.

That means, in his first 3 years on Pope duty, not only does poor Mr. Swiss Guard have to learn the art of security in a 2,000-year-old institution, but he has to find a gal, too!

Swiss Guard Vatican City

Do you wear that when you go to the pub?

Finding the girl of your dreams probably isn’t easy in the male-dominated Vatican City. Maybe that’s why they created an official Facebook page.

2. Vatican City is only 84 years old. That’s quite young for a church that spans centuries!

The Vatican in 1962

The Vatican in 1962. Because that’s old enough.
Via the BBC

3. Murder exists in Vatican City, too. Yep, in 1998, Alois Estermann, a member of the Swiss Guard, and his wife were murdered in their Vatican City apartment. According to the pope’s authorities, the culprit (a younger Swiss Guard) then committed suicide. Understandably, conspiracy theories abound!

Estermann with Pope John Paul II

Estermann with Pope John Paul II.
Via latimes.com

In recent years, there have been demands to reopen the case, most notable from the mother of the accused.

4. They still have the letter from Henry. Talk about hoarding. The Vatican’s archives still hold the letter from King Henry VIII requesting the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Spoiler alert: they said no.

old letter

I don’t know what this is. But it looks like a really old letter.
Via the-mirror.org

C’mon guys, get over it. So he broke your heart and divorced her anyway, you don’t have to hold a grudge.

5. The ATM’s are in Latin. That’s right. The Vatican Bank (yeah, the Vatican has a bank) is the only bank in the world that has ATM’s using the language of Latin.

Latin ATM in Vatican City

Just gimme my money!
Via H-stt on Flickr.com

6. The Sistine Chapel is super ugly – on the outside. You wouldn’t think it from the inside, but I bet the birds have no respect for Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

Sistine Chapel

I hear a foghorn. Boooooooring.

7. I’ve seen the last 2 popes with my own eyes. It’s true! I saw John Paul II (JPII to you admirers) when he visited St. Louis, Mo., in 1999. There was an airport welcoming with a limited (huge) number of places, and somehow my family scored some. Granted, I was one of the shortest people there and the pope was just a small speck that could have been any of his cardinals and/or bodyguards. But I stand by my perhaps fabricated memory! (Translation: I might have seen him!)

Pope John Paul with Clinton II in St. Louis

Apparently Clinton was there, too. Maybe I was asleep the whole time…
Via stltoday.com

Then, in 2007, I was in Rome with a school tour when Pope Benedict XVI stuck his head out a window. It just so happened that we were touring the Vatican on a Wednesday morning. We were all really pissed off that the Sistine Chapel was closed for renovations, and then ole Benny surprised us with his weekly papal audience. (He also looked a lot like a tiny speck.)

Benedict XVI papal audience

This is what he saw. I guess. According to the internet.
Via richmonddiocese.org

Now I’ll just leave you with this, a sentiment I’ve heard from many a Catholic these past weeks:

In My Corner by Susan O'Brien Fischer

Via Facebook.com/InMyCorner

Annie Cosby

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  1. You shuold have mentioned your behind-the-scenes tour during the volvcano-out.

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