The Vatican, was built on the site of the Circus of Nero (a chariot racing and games arena) but after the great fire of 64 AD it was the scene of many Christian martyrdoms. Ancient tradition holds that it was in this circus that Saint Peter was crucified upside-down by Nero. The Constantinian basilica was built in 326 AD over a nearby graveyard what was believed to contain the tomb of Saint Peter
Today the Vatican or Vatican city is a walled enclave (a fortress on three sides) within the city of Rome. It is 110 acres in size and has a population of around 900. It is the smallest independent state in the world both by size and population.
Vatican City is independent state ruled by the Pope and is the heart of the Roman Catholic Church which has a following of 1.2 billion worshipers worldwide.
Within the Vatican are cultural sites such as St Paul Basilica, the Vatican museums (which contains some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures), the Vatican library and the Sistine chapel, home to the great Michelangelo's ceiling painting. Artists who decorated the interiors of the Vatican include Raphael and Fra Angelico.
The gardens which date back to a medieval orchard cover 57 acres (which is most of Vatican hill) and are well worth a visit. What we see today was established during the Renaissance and Baroque era, and are decorated with many fountains and sculptures.