It is the 11th of February 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1929.

We do neither sequels nor series on this show. Each one stands alone. But if you've been listening to this show for the past week, you'll see a few threads and characters come together. One of the more interesting aspects of modern church history is the peculiar dichotomy between secular and sacred. We sometimes refer to as shorthand as issues pertaining to the "church and state." One important modern assumption is that there is no church-state. There might be state churches, but no single state is run by the church. Or is there?

We recently counted the top four most historically significant Popes. We landed on Pope Pius IX as the most historically significant (not "the best" but the Pope who ushered the modern Catholic Church). We told his story, and then a few days later, it happened to be the anniversary of the loss of temporal authority by that same Pope in 1849. The deal the church had made with Constantine, Charlemagne, and so many temporal rulers was now undone. We can't skip that important story. And you might remember that part of the loss of temporal authority had to do with Italian nationalism and a desire to make the Papal States part of the Republic of Italy. And we mentioned that Vatican City would eventually become a peculiar independent state. It is a kind of "Christian state" with a peculiar history. On this day, the 11th of February in 1929 that Fascist bad guy Benito Mussolini signed the Lateran Pact with the Holy See, making the 100-acre walled city its independent state. Let's break down this curious quasi-theocracy, bullet-point style:

  • It's called "Vatican" after Viaticum, an ancient Etruscan settlement on the hill where the papal Palace currently sits.
  • It was first used as the Papal residence in the 14th century. Before that, the Pope lived in the Lateran Palace. We see that word "Lateran" all over some fancy buildings and important places, it comes from the Laterini family, wealthy Roman landowners who lost their land to Constantine.
  • What's it like for those living in the small walled theocracy today? They drink the most wine in the world per capita, they are the richest per capita, and they have the most extensive library in the world. Not bad. Unfortunately, citizenship is restricted to only about 450 in a state with a total population of about 800.
  • Vatican City petitioned to join the EU with the introduction of the Euro and Eurozone. However, they were denied as membership is reserved only for democracies. Vatican City is an absolute monarchy ruled by its king, the Pope. They do use the Euro after striking a deal with Italy. There are specially minted Vatican Euros, but as collector's items, they can be hard to find. And while they don't dispense coins, there are ATMs in Vatican City. They are the only ATMs in the world with "Latin" as a language option.

Regardless of your confessional allegiances, the story of the seat of the Western Christian Church in one of the cradles of Western civilization is a fascinating one. The story of this "only absolute monarchy in the western world" begins millennia ago, but officially only 92 years ago today when the Lateran Pact recognized Vatican City's creation as an autonomous country on the 11th of February 1929.

Yesterday's reading came from a previous liturgical season. And today, we're jumping the gun with a great reading for the upcoming season of Lent. This is Thomas Campion's "Lenten Hymn."

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pard'ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.
I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppress,
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.
Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.
Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.
And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 11th of February 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who wondered if the Pope had his residence downgraded when he moved to the Vatican; I assured him it was a Lateran move… he is Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.