Lateran Treaty

The Lateran Treaty (Italian: Patti Lateranensi; Latin: Pacta Lateranensia) was one component of the Lateran Pacts of 1929, agreements between the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emanuel III and the Holy See under Pope Pius XI to settle the long-standing Roman Question. The treaty and associated pacts were named after the Lateran Palace where they were signed on 11 February 1929, and the Italian parliament ratified them on 7 June 1929. The treaty recognized Vatican City as an independent state under the sovereignty of the Holy See. The Italian government also agreed to give the Roman Catholic Church financial compensation for the loss of the Papal States.[1] In 1948, the Lateran Treaty was recognized in the Constitution of Italy as regulating the relations between the state and the Catholic Church.[2]

Lateran Treaty
Vatican and Italian delegations prior to signing the treaty
TypeBilateral treaty
ContextEstablishment of papal state on the Italian Peninsula
Signed11 February 1929 (1929-02-11)
LocationRome, Italy
Effective7 June 1929
ConditionRatification by the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy
Signatories  Holy See
 Kingdom of Italy


The Lateran Pacts are often presented as three treaties: a 27-article treaty of conciliation, a three-article financial convention, and a 45-article concordat.[3][4][5][6][7][8] However, the website of the Holy See presents the financial convention as an annex of the treaty of conciliation, considering the pacts as two documents:[9]

  • A political treaty recognising the full sovereignty of the Holy See in the State of Vatican City, which was thereby established, accompanied by four annexes:
    • A map of the territory of Vatican City State
    • Maps of buildings with extraterritorial privilege and exemption from expropriation and taxes (owned by the Holy See but located in Italy and not forming part of Vatican City)
    • Maps of buildings with exemption from expropriation and taxes (but without extraterritorial privilege)
    • A financial convention agreed on as a definitive settlement of the claims of the Holy See following the loss in 1870 of its territories and property[lower-alpha 1]
  • A concordat regulating relations between the Catholic Church and the Italian state


Francesco Pacelli was the right-hand man to Pietro Gasparri during the Lateran Treaty negotiations
Territory of Vatican City State, established by the Lateran Accords
2013 map of Vatican City

During the unification of Italy in the mid-19th century, the Papal States resisted incorporation into the new nation, even as all the other Italian countries, except for San Marino, joined it; Camillo Cavour's dream of proclaiming the Kingdom of Italy from the steps of St. Peter's Basilica did not come to pass. The nascent Kingdom of Italy invaded and occupied Romagna (the eastern portion of the Papal States) in 1860, leaving only Latium in the pope's domains. Latium, including Rome itself, was occupied and annexed in 1870. For the following sixty years, relations between the Papacy and the Italian government were hostile, and the status of the pope became known as the "Roman Question".

The Popes knew that Rome was irrevocably the capital of Italy. There was nothing they wanted less than to govern it or be burdened with a papal kingdom. What they wished was independence, a foothold on the earth that belonged to no other sovereign.[16]

Negotiations for the settlement of the Roman Question began in 1926 between the government of Italy and the Holy See, and culminated in the agreements of the Lateran Pacts, signed—the Treaty says—for King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and for Pope Pius XI by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri,[17] on 11 February 1929.[18] It was ratified on 7 June 1929.[19]

The agreements included a political treaty which created the state of the Vatican City and guaranteed full and independent sovereignty to the Holy See. The Pope was pledged to perpetual neutrality in international relations and to abstention from mediation in a controversy unless specifically requested by all parties. In the first article of the treaty, Italy reaffirmed the principle established in the 1848 Constitution of the Kingdom of Italy, that "the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Religion is the only religion of the State".[20] The attached financial agreement was accepted as settlement of all the claims of the Holy See against Italy arising from the loss of temporal power of the Papal States in 1870.

The sum thereby given to the Holy See was actually less than Italy declared it would pay under the terms of the Law of Guarantees of 1871, by which the Italian government guaranteed to Pope Pius IX and his successors the use of, but not sovereignty over, the Vatican and Lateran Palaces and a yearly income of 3,250,000 lire as indemnity for the loss of sovereignty and territory. The Holy See, on the grounds of the need for clearly manifested independence from any political power in its exercise of spiritual jurisdiction, had refused to accept the settlement offered in 1871, and the popes thereafter until the signing of the Lateran Treaty considered themselves prisoners in the Vatican, a small, limited area inside Rome.

To commemorate the successful conclusion of the negotiations, Mussolini commissioned the Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation), which would symbolically link the Vatican City to the heart of Rome.

After 1946

The Constitution of the Italian Republic, adopted in 1948, states that relations between the State and the Catholic Church "are regulated by the Lateran Treaties".[21]

In 1984, an agreement was signed, revising the concordat. Among other things, both sides declared: "The principle of the Catholic religion as the sole religion of the Italian State, originally referred to by the Lateran Pacts, shall be considered to be no longer in force".[22] The Church's position as the sole state-supported religion of Italy was also ended, replacing the state financing with a personal income tax called the otto per mille, to which other religious groups, Christian and non-Christian, also have access. As of 2013, there are ten other religious groups with access. The revised concordat regulated the conditions under which civil effects are accorded by Italy to church marriages and to ecclesiastical declarations of nullity of marriages.[23] Abolished articles included those concerning state recognition of knighthoods and titles of nobility conferred by the Holy See,[24] the undertaking by the Holy See to confer ecclesiastical honours on those authorized to perform religious functions at the request of the State or the Royal Household,[25] and the obligation of the Holy See to enable the Italian government to present political objections to the proposed appointment of diocesan bishops.[26]

In 2008, it was announced that the Vatican would no longer immediately adopt all Italian laws, citing conflict over right-to-life issues following the trial and ruling of the Eluana Englaro case.[27]


Italy's anti-Jewish laws of 1938 prohibited marriages between Jews and non-Jews, including Catholics. The Vatican viewed this as a violation of the Concordat, which gave the church the sole right to regulate marriages involving Catholics.[28] Article 34 of the Concordat had also specified that marriages performed by the Catholic Church would always be considered valid by civil authorities.[29] The Holy See understood this to apply to all marriages in Italy celebrated by Roman Catholic clergy, regardless of the faiths of those being married.[29]

See also



  1. The Italian state agreed to pay 750 million lire immediately plus consolidated bearer bonds with a coupon rate of 5% and a nominal value of 1,000 million lire. It thus paid less than it would have paid, 3.25 million lire per annum, under the 1871 Law of Guarantees, which the Holy See had not accepted.[10][11][12][13][14][15]


  1. A History of Western Society (Tenth ed.). Bedford/St. Martin's. 2010. p. 900.
  2. Constitution of Italy, article 7.
  3. "Text of the Lateran Treaty of 1929".
  4. James Brown Scott, "The Treaty between Italy and the Vatican" in Proceedings of the American Society of International Law at Its Annual Meeting (1921–1969), volume 23, (24-27 April 1929), p. 13.
  5. "Holy See (Vatican City) Government Profile 2017".
  6. "CIA Factbook, "Holy See (Vatican City)"". Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  7. "La Chiesa cattolica e il fascismo" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  8. "Scopri StoriaLive". Archived from the original on 11 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  9. Pacts between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, 11 February 1929.
  10. "index.html".
  11. John F. Pollard, The Vatican and Italian Fascism, 1929–32: A Study in Conflict (Cambridge University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-52102366-5), p. 43.
  12. John Whittam, Fascist Italy (Manchester University Press 1995 ISBN 978-0-71904004-7), p. 77.
  13. Gerhard Robbers, Encyclopedia of World Constitutions (Infobase Publishing 2006 ISBN 978-0-81606078-8), p. 1007.
  14. Law Library Journal, volume 99:3, p. 590 Archived 16 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. "How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini's millions", The Guardian, 21 January 2013.
  16. Vatican Journal, p. 59 (entry dated June 14, 1931).
  17. Kertzer, Prisoner of the Vatican, p. 292
  18. Rhodes, The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, p. 46
  19. The National Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 266
  20. "Patti lateranensi, 11 febbraio 1929 - Segreteria di Stato, card. Pietro Gasparri".
  21. "The Constitution of the Italian Republic, article 7". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  22. The American Society of International Law, "Agreement between the Italian Republic and the Holy See" (English translation)[dead link]
  23. Article 8 of the revised concordat
  24. Articles 41–42 of the 1929 concordat
  25. Article 15 of the 1929 concordat
  26. Article 19 of the 1929 concordat
  27. Elgood, Giles (31 December 2008). "Vatican ends automatic adoption of Italian law". Reuters. Retrieved 9 January 2009. The Vatican will no longer automatically adopt new Italian laws as its own, a top Vatican official said, citing the vast number of laws Italy churns out, many of which are in odds with Catholic doctrine.
  28. Zuccotti, 2000, p. 37.
  29. Zuccotti, 2000, p. 48.


Archival sources