Vatican City, a sovereign country, is the smallest nation in the world and completely surrounded by Rome. It includes St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world at over six acres, and the Vatican Museums, with over 4.5 miles of corridors.
There are over 900 churches in Rome but only four greater, or patriarchal churches, which come directly under the Pope and have a papal altar: San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter’s Basilica) is the heart, home and spiritual capital for over one billion Catholics around the world; Santa Maria Maggiore; San Paolo Fuori le Mura and San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John in Lateran).
One of the most recognizable squares in Rome, St. Peter’s Square lies in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and over a portion of the Necropolis, or City of the Dead. Along each side are Bernini’s semi-circular colonnades, on top of which are 140 marble statues of saints looking down upon the piazza. In the middle is a large Egyptian obelisk, originally erected in Heliopolis by King Nuncores and moved to Rome by Emperor Caligula (34-41 A.D.).