Are only Catholics/Christians allowed to visit the Vatican?

If not, can the non-Catholics access the same areas as Catholics?

  • 8
    Even if the government wanted to allow only Catholic visitors, how do you imagine they would verify who is and is not Catholic? Jun 11, 2012 at 22:39
  • 19
    @MichaelBorgwardt, we have a secret handshake.
    – Stuart
    Jun 11, 2012 at 23:22
  • 3
    Maybe they won't check, but there is a rule of somehow thats why I asked, I love to follow rules when I travel. Jun 12, 2012 at 4:36
  • 6
    Hindus, Muslims and Jews have some sacred areas which is only allowed for people from that religion. I thought the Vatican City has something like that. Jun 12, 2012 at 15:08
  • 4
    @HaLaBi Catholicism has no faith-based restrictions at all on visiting holy places. What is open to the public is open to any member of the public, such as churches, shrines, or cemeteries. What is private is private even among Catholics, for example a lay Catholic or even a priest cannot simply walk into any convent or priory any more than any other member of the public can. There is etiquette to be observed of course, such as not receiving communion if you are not a communicant, or dressing conservatively in traditional venues, but no one will ask you for "credentials."
    – choster
    Jun 12, 2012 at 16:45

4 Answers 4


Vatican City is certainly open to visit for tourists at large; as you perhaps know, there is no actual boundary between Rome and Vatican City, meaning that nobody checks the papers of those who move from one to the other.

However, when I first read your question, I thought that you meant St. Peter's Cathedral, which takes up so much of Vatican City and which characterises it from a visual point of view with its huge dome. If this is the case, not only do rules apply for proper clothing, but there are also areas inside the church which are considered off limits for all those who are not there for devotional reasons. There are portions of the church which are cordoned off and which you may enter only if you intend to pray. Once again, nobody will ask you for proof of your being a Catholic, but you may be asked to leave if, instead of praying, you take photos or perform other "touristy" actions.


With 109 acres (44 hectares) within its walls, the Vatican is easily traveled by foot; however, most of this area is inaccessible to tourists.

No reference about Anglicans, Muslims or any other - just tourists. Any where that a Catholic can get in, you can too, regardless of your background. And also importantly, regardless of your gender - a recent change!


  • Since Vatican City is a Papal state, as such respect and reverence to the Roman Catholic Church and its practices and doctrine is encouraged.

  • Sleeveless shirts and short pants or skirts are not permitted within the border of the Vatican.

Some areas typically off-limits can be applied for access to them, including the famous Vatican Secret Archives.

From Wikipedia:

Qualified scholars from institutions of higher education pursuing scientific researches, with an adequate knowledge of archival research, could apply for an entry card. Scholars need an introductory letter by either a recognized institute of research or by a suitably qualified person in the field of historical research. Applicants need to specify their personal data (name, address etc.) as well as the purpose of their research. Undergraduate students are not admitted.


No, there are tours for everyone. Unless a cardinal or a church employee, I can't see how one being a catholic provides any benefits there.

  • only catholics may receive the holy communion in st peters (if one may see that as a benefit.... :-) )
    – froderik
    Jun 12, 2012 at 6:41
  • 2
    @froderik I'm not sure that's true. What you probably meant was "the holy communion is only intended for Catholics", right? But do they issue official Catholic documents now? Doubt it.
    – littleadv
    Jun 12, 2012 at 7:01
  • indeed - I guess the wording would may depending on who you are talking to. (but me being a renegade protestant wouldn't know anyway...)
    – froderik
    Jun 12, 2012 at 11:34
  • @froderik. The Holy Communion is normally reserved to Catholics (with a few exceptions) no matter which church you are in. So this is not a specific limitation in St Peter's. The idea of getting special documents (I'm not sure they are actual documents, though) is connected with the jubilee or other out of the ordinary situations. For example, when the Pope came to Milan 10 days ago, those who took part in the Mass he celebrated were granted absolution from their sins just for this. I think it's a stupid heritage from the past, but I doubt anyone in church hierarchy is interested in my opinion
    – Paola
    Jun 13, 2012 at 0:18

Getting into Vatican is pretty straightforward. There are no border checks. Problems may arise when you want to enter St. Peters Basilica. However, religious beliefs don't matter. I am not a Catholic and I have already visited Vatican and St. Peter's basilica twice. Nobody asked me about my beliefs.

I can think about three things which are eliminatory:

Also note that for visiting places other than St. Peter's square, St. Peter's Basilica, and the museums, you need special arrangements.

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