What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Vatican City Mean?

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on July 23 2018 in World Facts

The flag of Vatican City.

The Vatican City State, or simply Vatican City, is a nation located within Rome, Italy. Vatican City is the world’s smallest country in terms of both area and population. It is unique in many aspects and a theocratic state ruled by the pope, who is head of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican City hosts many religious and cultural sites including the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and St. Peter's Basilica.

History of the Flag

Vatican City’s flag was adopted on June 7, 1929, when Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy which created the independent state governed by the Holy See. The design of the flag resembles that of the former Papal States, which was a red and yellow cockade. In 1808, the Vatican’s Noble Guard received an order from Pope Pius VII to replace the red color of the cockade with white. By that time, a white merchant flag was already in use in the Papal States. The flag was introduced in 1803 and featured the Papal coat of arms at the center. The flag was formally adopted in 1815, and was subsequently replaced by a yellow and white flag on September 17, 1825. Square-shaped yellow and white flags were adopted by the papal infantry in 1831. When Italy annexed the Papal States in 1870, the flags of these states became obsolete. In 1929, the merchant flag of 1825 was adopted again as the flag of the newly formed Vatican City. However, this new flag was square-shaped like the former infantry flag.


The flag of Vatican City is a square-shaped vertical bicolor. The two bands include a yellow or gold band on the hoist side and a white band on the fly side. The Vatican City coat of arms is featured at the center of the white band.


The Vatican City coat of arms features two main components: the papal tiara and two crossed keys. One of the keys is golden in color, while the other is silver. The latter is placed in the dexter position of the flag. The keys symbolize the Keys of Heaven, and were presented to St. Peter by Christ. Since the popes are regarded as St. Peter's successors, the keys are one of the most important elements symbolizing the Holy See. The gold and the silver keys represent spiritual and worldly powers, respectively. Also, the colors of the flag represent the colors of the key, where yellow represents the golden key and white represents the silver key.

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