Vatican City: Information on its Origins

Vatican City (photo by Joyce Thiel)


The Church of Rome is generally believed to be headquartered in a place known as Vatican City (its claimed ‘spiritual throne,’ called the ‘cathedra’ is located in Rome itself in a place called the Basilica of St. John Lateran).

Where did Vatican City get its name?

Vatican City gets its name from the hill that it is on.

That hill is Vaticanus or Vatican hill.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains some information about the location:

The territory on the right bank of the Tiber between Monte Mario and Gianicolo (Janiculum) was known to antiquity as the Ager Vaticanus, and, owing to its marshy character, the low-lying portion of this district enjoyed an ill repute…

In the imperial gardens situated in this section was the Circus of Nero. At the foot of the Vatican Hill lay the ancient Basilica of St. Peter. By extensive purchases of land the medieval popes acquired possession of the whole hill, thus preparing the way for building activity. Communication with the city was established by the Pons Ælius, which led directly to the mausoleum of Hadrian. Between 848 and 852 Leo IV surrounded the whole settlement with a wall, which included it within the city boundaries. (Baumgarten, P.M. (1912). The Vatican. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 27, 2014 from New Advent:

So where did that name come from? Here is one explanation (there are several):

Vatica (Vatika) — The Etruscan. Goddess of the Underworld who guarded the city of the dead on Vatican Hill in ancient Rome. The Etruscans did not bury their dead inside the walls of their cities and for that reason, on a hillside slope outside the ancient city that was destined to become Rome, the Etruscans established a very large cemetery. The area, which is now St. Peters Basilica, thus became known as the “Vatican“. Vatika had several other related meanings in ancient Etruscan. It was the name of a bitter grape that grew wild on the graveyard slope, which the peasants made into what became infamous as the name of one of the cheapest (and worst) wines in the ancient world. It was also the name of a hallucinogenic weed (vatika cannabis), that grew on the slope and when chewed, was thought to produced prophetic vision, much like the effect of peyote mushrooms. Thus, the word passed into Latin as a synonym for “prophecy and also as the name of the Etruscans female oracles called “Vaticinia”. (Goddess Directory. Spirit Walk Ministry. © 2007- 2014 Spirit Walk Ministry. viewed 05/10/14)

A Catholic writer put out the following:

Where does the word “Vatican” come from and what does it mean?

The word derives from the Latin vates, which means “tellers of the future.” This name was the name given to a hillside on the west bank of the Tiber River in Rome because daily lineups of fortunetellers used to hawk their “wares” there to passersby on the street. In the fourteenth century, when the papacy was returned to Rome from Avignon (France), the present-day Vatican became the residence of the popes, and the word came to refer to the enclave in the middle of Rome that had become the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. (Bello N. Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities. Liguori Publications, Copyright 1998, ISBN 0-7648-0171-6, page 135)

Essentially, Vatican Hill means the hill of prophecy.  While some may find that to be a good thing, the Bible has negative prophecies towards a church associated with hills (Revelation 17:9), wine (Revelation 17:2), and false prophecies (Matthew 24:23-24; Revelation 16:13, 19:20).  Vatican Hill is just outside the walls of ancient Rome (cemeteries/necropoli tended to be built just outside of cities in ancient times).

Varro (1st century BC) connected the name Vatican to a Deus Vaticanus or Vagitanus, a Roman deity.  The account of which was preserved in the second century A.D. by Aulus Gellius:

We have been told that the word Vatican is applied to the hill, and the deity who presides over it, from the vaticinia, or prophecies, which took place there by the power and inspiration of the god; but Marcus Varro, in his book on Divine Things, gives another reason for this name. “As Aius,” says he, “was called a deity, and an altar was built to his honour in the lowest part of the new road, because in that place a voice from heaven was heard, so this deity was called Vaticanus, because he presided over the principles of the human voice; for infants, as soon as they are born, make the sound which forms the first syllable in Vaticanus, and are therefore said vagire (to cry) which word expresses the noise which an infant first makes.” (English translation by William Beloe, The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius (London, 1795), vol. 3, pp. 247–248.)
Augustine of Hippo wrote about Vaticanus:

8 Vaticanus, who presides over the screaming of infants…

11 One while let Jupiter be the soul of this corporeal world, who fills and moves that whole mass…let him open the mouth in the crying babe, and be called the god Vaticanus…

21 What need was there to commend the children to the goddess Ops when they were being born; to the god Vaticanus in their birth-cry; (City of God, Book 4).

The Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes Augustine’s points as follows:

St. Augustine (Civ. Dei, IV, ii) discusses the opinion of Roman writers that all the manifold gods and goddesses of the Romans were in the final analysis but one Jupiter, for these deities melt away into each other on closer inspection. Thus we have a single god who by the dissection of his nature into various aspects of his powers, and by the personifying of his individual powers, has been resolved into a multiplicity of deities. The Romans thus broke up the idea of deity by hypostasizing particular powers, modes of operation, physical functions, and properties. By this process not only events in nature and in human life, but their various phases, qualities, and circumstances were considered apart as endowed with proper personalities, and worshipped as deities. Thus in the life of a child; Vaticanus opens his mouth, Cunina guards the cradle, Educa and Potina teach him to eat and drink, Fabulinus to speak, Statalinus helps him to stand up, Adeona and Abeona watch over his first footsteps. (Driscoll, J.T. (1908). Deity. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 27, 2014 from New Advent:

So, in a sense Vatican hill means the hill of Jupiter also known as Zeus.  Or the hill of Vatica.

While that of itself does not prove that the Church of Rome has pagan practices, there have been compromises it has made over the centuries.

Notice the following scriptures:

1 Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.  5 And on her forehead a name was written:


6 I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement… 9 “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. (Revelation 17:1-6,9)

One observation that I have heard is that the portion of Vatican City with St. Peter’s square actually suggestively shows a women committing fornication.  From certain high vantage points in Vatican City, it does look like the area has two breasts, wide hips, and with the obelisk (a phallic symbol) in the midst of the lower region, so that certainly can be implied.  Since Bible warns about a compromised women associated with seven hills/mountains committing fornication with the kings of the world (Revelation 17), this is another aspect of the Vatican which should give all who do, or will, pledge some type of allegiance to is pause.

Of course, actual doctrine is more important than implied connections with non-biblical practices, and information on doctrines and changes can be found in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. December 25th was celebrated as his birthday. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity? A sermon video from Vatican City is titled Church of Rome, Mithras, and Isis?
Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity? Was Jesus born in a below ground cave? Was Jesus born below the “Church of the Nativity”? Were the wise men there?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.

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