Top Historic Sights in Vatican, Vatican City State

Explore the historic highlights of Vatican

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chap ...
Founded: 1477 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

St. Peter's Basilica

Saint Peter's Basilica is the center of Christianity in Vatican city state. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter's is regarded as one of the ...
Founded: 1506-1626 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter"s Square (Piazza San Pietro) is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter"s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo. At the centre of the square is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, erected at the current site in 1586. It was made of red granite and is 25.5 metres tall. The obelisk was originally erected at Heliopolis, Egy ...
Founded: 1656-1667 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Vatican Historical Museum

The Vatican Historical Museum is one of the sections of the Vatican Museums. It was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI, and was initially hosted in environments under the Square Garden. In 1987 it was moved to the main floor of the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran and opened in March 1991. The Vatican Historical Museum has a unique collection of portraits of the Popes from the 16th century to date, the memorabl ...
Founded: 1973 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Apostolic Palace

The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope. The building contains the Papal Apartments, various offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and Borgia Apartment. The modern tourist can see these last and other parts of the palace, but other parts, such as the Sala Regia and Cappella Paoli ...
Founded: 1471-1605 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

St. Stephen of the Abyssinians Church

St Stephen of the Abyssinians is a Roman Catholic church located in Vatican City. The church dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr is the national church of Ethiopia. The liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. It is one of the only standing structures in the Vatican to survive the destruction of old St. Peter"s basilica, and thus it is the oldest surviving church in V ...
Founded: 1159 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Vatican Apostolic Library

The Vatican Apostolic Library was formally established in 1475, although it is much older. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. It currently has 75,000 codices from throughout history, as well as 1.1 million printed books, which include some 8,500 incunabula. The Vatican Library is a research library for history, law, philosophy, science ...
Founded: 1475 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet and meditation for the popes since 1279 when Nicholas III moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the new walls, which he had built to protect his residence, he planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium). Created around the hill of Saint Egidio (where the Palazzetto del Belvedere is located today) and the court ...
Founded: 1279 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Falaise

Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.

The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.

In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.