The watch from St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, with St. Peter's Square come the Via della Conciliazione, located in Italy. (Photo by David Iliff / License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 / via Wikipedia)

After this week’s kerfuffle between GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and Pope Francis about whether building border walls is a Christ-like act, trumped supporters and others gleefully proclaimed the pope a hypocrite because the Vatican chin is completely surrounded through a big wall.

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Except that it’s not.


Here’s one popular photo make the rounds:

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This map, additionally circulating, shows St. Peter’s Square, ~ above the right, closed off from the street by a wall. Perhaps visitors are given croziers to help them vault over.

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In fact, Vatican City is wide open come anyone who desires to stroll under the Via della Conciliazione, situated in Italy, and into St. Peter’s Square. The just thing that may slow you under are steel detectors.

In the square, you’ll be surrounded by two hemicycles the a four-row Bernini colonnade, open up to the surrounding streets, designed to symbolically welcome you into the eight of holy Mother Church.

Here’s what it really looks like from the street, through St. Peter’s Basilica right ahead:

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And this is the the contrary view, indigenous the basilica in Vatican City throughout the square out to the street, i beg your pardon is in Italy:

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Not rather the forbidding fortress some room portraying.

By Thursday night, Trump had actually softened his tone, saying during a CNN town hall the he likes the pope and what he represents. “I don’t think this is a fight,” trump card said. “I think he claimed something much softer than was originally reported by the media.”

But he recurring the trope about the Vatican’s walls: “… he’s obtained an awfully big wall in ~ the Vatican, I will certainly tell you.”

He’s partially right: huge walls execute surround many of the Vatican. They’re a middle ages anachronism: Pope Leo IV developed some of lock in the ninth century to store Church building safe indigenous invading troops, while others room a little bit newer, developed in the 16th century as a type of politics statement about the strength of the papacy.

“The walls space a fortification, over there is no question, however they to be a fortification developed at a time when equipped invasions by barbarians and also other pressures were happening,” Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, a Catholic studies professor in ~ Georgetown, told The new York Times. “And the is not the exact same thing we room talking about with a wall surface between the US and also Mexico.”

Vatican City is a can be fried state, the smallest internationally recognized live independence state in the world by both area (110 acres) and population (about 1,000).

To gain accessibility to St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the Vatican museum — which includes the Sistine Chapel — requires waiting in a long security line and also going through a steel detector.

Access to various other parts of the Vatican — including the gardens, the Vatican Bank, and also Casa Santa Marta, whereby Pope Francis lives — is a bit an ext difficult. That requires having the proper credentials, such together a push pass or an scholastic affiliation, and also a brief conversation with a member of the Swiss Guard, i beg your pardon protects most entrances.

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Unlike the walls, the Guard room not anachronisms. They lug guns, and their security is supplemented with help from Italian police. However they room a throwback come a time once the pope really essential protection, and it stopped his opponents from saying, “You and also what army?” when encountering a an obstacle from the holy See.