Vatican City (1984)

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The Vatican City, one of the most sacred places in Christendom, attests to a great history and a formidable spiritual venture. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre is St Peter's Basilica, with its double colonnade and a circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and gardens. The basilica, erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world, the fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno. 

The Vatican 1991. Triptych of St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican 1949.  St. Peter's Basilica with the Colonnade and the Obelisque in the center.

He also completed the unfinished façade (1614) of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Between 1606 and 1612 he built the nave extension and façade of the church, which Donato Bramante had begun approximately 100 years earlier. 

His style influenced the Baroque architects Francesco Borromini and Gianlorenzo Bernini. The dome was originally designed by Michelangelo, but was not finished in his lifetime. 

  • The Vatican 1949.  Special Delivery Stamp, showing a full view of St. Peter's in Rome, with the Colonnade and the Obelisque in the center. 


The Vatican 1933. Panoramic view of St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican 1933. The dome of St. Peter's Basilica, seen from the gardens of The Vatican. The Vatican 1933. Arial view of St. Peter's Basilica and The Vatican.

The Basilica is named after the apostle Peter, who died c. 64 AD, and was the most prominent of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, a leader and missionary in the early Church, and traditionally the first bishop of Rome. The below stamp shows the statue of St. Peter by Guiseppe De Fabris (1790-1860) in front of St. Peter's Basilica.  In his right hand Peter holds a key, and in his left hand a scroll.  Behind St. Peter, on the balustrade of St. Peter's Church  (top left on the stamp) is the Apostle Philip with his attribute, The Latin Cross.  To right of Philip further two apostles.  

Scholars have had considerable difficulty in advancing from these traditions to the historical Peter, but one of the most important of the traditional elements is also one of the most historically secure: 

The Vatican 1938. The Apostle St. Peter.

Peter was the first to receive a revelation of the risen Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:3; Luke 24:34). 

From this point other aspects of the picture of Peter have been developed, notably the change of his name from Simon to Peter. 

  • The Vatican 1938.  Air post stamp (considerably enlarged), showing St. Peter. 

  • The Vatican 2000.  St. Peter's Basilica with an image of the Apostle appearing behind the church.  

The Vatican 2000. St. Peter's Basilica with an image of the Apostel St. Peater appearing behind the church.

From the references to Peter in the Gospels it is known that the name he received at birth and with which he grew up was Simon. The Greek word petros ("rock") and its Aramaic equivalent, cephas, were not in use as personal names. "Peter" is thus a metaphorical or symbolic designation that came in time to function as the name of the man in question. The symbolic name in its Aramaic form may have arisen in connection with the affirmation that the resurrected Lord appeared first to Simon, that appearance and thus Simon himself serving as a sort of foundation stone of the Church. 

The Vatican 1986. Six se-tenant stamps in a composite design. The Vatican City and St. Peter's Cathedral.   The Vatican 2000.  First day cover of St. Peter's Cathedral.

As is the case with Rome as such, there are hundreds of stamps depicting the Vatican and its art treasures. This being a study in itself, this is far beyond the scope of this site. I hope, nevertheless, that I have triggered your taste for collecting the stamps of the Vatican, also popularly known as the off-shore tax-haven of Rome ;-) 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites of the Holy See (The Vatican) (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing. section of the Holy See, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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