Why not Vatican XX?


I was explaining the Church councils to one of my non-Catholic friends, and he asked me a question I couldn’t come up with an answer to. He asked, if Rome has been the headquarters of the Church for 2000 years, why was the first Vatican Council held in 1869? How old is the Vatican as we know it? Just curious…


The councils are named for the cities in which they took place and since there have only been 2 in the Vatican… Also, not all the councils were of the same type. Having councils outside of the Vatican said/says nothing whatsoever about its being the seat of authority, for whoever is the bishop of Rome is also the pope, no matter where councils are held.

The modern building structures of the Vatican are not ancient, obviously. A lot of Church history took place during very turbulent times in which the Church was being persecuted and had no means of building any buildings of any kind. The history of the site of the Vatican is long and complex–too long and complex to relate on a message board. No doubt there are reliable books on the topic. Try a google search. :slight_smile:


Well I can think of many reasons why historically councils were held outside of Rome…anything from logistics, ease of travel, the desire not to overawe the participants, or just because the Pope wanted to get out of town (or people form outside Italy, jealous of Italian influence wanting to get the pope out of Rome). There are probably as many reasons (or more ) as there were councils

the simple answer as to why they suddenly started having them in the Vatican in the 19th century was that after Italian unification in 1861 and the dismemberment of the Papal States over the next few years there were several popes who sort of went into an unofficial house arrest by adopting a policy of not leaving the Vatican. I’m not sure of all the rationale behind the policy.

As for the age of the Vatican, old St Peters dated from soon after official recognition of the Church by the Imperial government in the 4th century. By the Renaissance it was over 1000 years old and showing it. So the buildings we know today were built. (While I know it was built for the great glory of God, a little bit of me suspects that the architects were sort of taking a poke at some of the minimalist elements in the (then new) Protestant movement by making the new buildings as ornately “Catholic” as possible) :wink:

IIRC St John Lateran although not technically in the Vatican, dates from 320

prior to that the Popes had to keep a low profile or risk being asked to lunch at the colloseum :eek:


The five Lateran councils (1123, 1139, 1179, 1215, and 1512-1517) were also held in Rome, at the Lateran Palace, so the total is actually seven out of twenty-one.


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