List of sovereigns of Vatican City State

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There have been eight sovereigns of Vatican City State since its establishment by the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The position as head of state of Vatican City is an ex officio role of the pope. The current sovereign, since his election on 13 March 2013, is Pope Francis.


Like the bishops of many other cities in the disintegrating Roman Empire, the bishops of Rome came to exercise duties of civil administration in place of the ineffective imperial government. They became in practice the civil rulers, subordinate to the emperor, of the area around Rome referred to as the duchy of Rome.[1] The Donation of Pepin in 756 made the popes for the first time rulers in their own right of the territories that came to be known as the Papal States. These lands were taken by Napoleon but recovered at the successive Congress of Vienna. They were definitively lost when, on 20 September 1870, Victor Emmanuel II's troops captured Rome, which was later declared the new capital of a unified Kingdom of Italy. Pope Pius IX and his successors disputed the legitimacy of the annexation of the Papal States and, refusing to put themselves under the protection of the new civil authorities, remained "prisoners in the Vatican". Having lost secular power, the popes focused on spiritual issues.[2]

This dispute, referred to as the Roman Question, continued until the Italian Government and the Holy See signed on 11 February 1929 the Lateran Treaty, which created the sovereign Vatican City State, with the pope as its ruler, making him ex officio the elected monarch, with absolute powers, of the newly created city-state.

List of sovereigns

Regnal name Accession Death/resignation Portrait Coat of arms Birth name
Pius XI 11 February 1929 10 February 1939 Bundesarchiv Bild 102-01279, Papst Pius XI..jpg C o a Pio XI.svg Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti
Pius XII 2 March 1939 9 October 1958 His Holiness Pope Pius XII.png Pius 12 coa.svg Eugenio Marìa Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli
John XXIII 28 October 1958 3 June 1963 Pope John XXIII - 1959.jpg John 23 coa.svg Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli
Paul VI 21 June 1963 6 August 1978 PABLO VI.jpg Paul 6 coa.svg Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini
John Paul I 26 August 1978 28 September 1978 Albino Luciani, 1969 (3).jpg C o a John Paul I.svg Albino Luciani
John Paul II 16 October 1978 2 April 2005 JohannesPaul2-portrait.jpg John paul 2 coa.svg Karol Józef Wojtyła
Benedict XVI 19 April 2005 28 February 2013 Benedicto XVI en Berlín, 2011.jpg Coat of Arms of Benedictus XVI.svg Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger
Francis 13 March 2013 Incumbent Pope Francis in March 2013 (cropped).jpg Insigne Francisci.svg Jorge Mario Bergoglio

See also


  1. Transactions, American Philosophical Society (vol. 72, Part 4, 1982 ISBN 978-1-42237473-3), p. 16
  2. Wetterau, Bruce. World history. New York: Henry Holt & co. 1994.