THE VATICAN CITY CULTURAL BACKGROUND
Vatican City is itself of great cultural significance. Buildings such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are home to some of the most famous art in the world, which includes works by artists such as Botticelli, Bernini and Michelangelo. The Vatican Library and the collections of the Vatican Museums are of the highest historical, scientific and cultural importance. In 1984, the Vatican was added by UNESCO to the List of World Heritage Sites; it is the only one to consist of an entire country.
The Vatican can be said to be the de facto custodian of the Latin language through its Latinitas Foundation. An important product of this foundation is the Latin lexicon of recent neologisms, theLexicon Recentis Latinitatis.
The permanent population of the Vatican City is predominately male, although two communities of nuns live in the Vatican. A minority are senior Catholic clergy, some are members of institutes of consecrated life, and the Swiss Guards make up an important segment. Many workers in Vatican City and embassy personnel accredited to the Holy See live outside its walls.
Dress: A dress code is enforced for entry into St. Peter’s Basilica. The code is based upon appropriate dress for visiting a Catholic church, and tourists and visitors are reminded that, although St. Peter’s is an architectural and artistic monument, it is first a place of worship and prayer. The dress code forbids:
- hats for lay men inside the basilica
- shorts/skirts above the knees
- sleeveless shirts
- shirts which contain profanity
- excessive jewellery
The use of mobile phones is also prohibited, as is smoking.
Music: As the seat of the Papacy, the Vatican City and its predecessor, the Papal States, has played an important role in the development of Christian music. They perform chants of ancient origin, such as Gregorian chants, as well as modern polyphonic music. The papal choir is a well-known institution that dates back more than four hundred years. Singers were originally from northern Europe, but began arriving more from Spain and Italy in the 16th century. At this time, church authorities became concerned about the words of liturgical texts being drowned out by the traditional melodies. As a result, reformers like Palestrina revised the rules behind Gregorian chanting, which were printed by the Medici Press in Rome; these reforms continued to be followed to the present day. A traditional musical instrument was the pipe organ.