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 Emmanuel III (with his Prime Minister Benito Mussolini) 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,[1] and the Italian parliament ratified them on 7 June 1929. The treaty recognised 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.[2] In 1948, the Lateran Treaty was recognized in the Constitution of Italy as regulating the relations between the state and the Catholic Church.[3] The treaty was significantly revised in 1984, ending the status of Catholicism as the sole state religion.

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)[1]
LocationRome, Italy
Effective7 June 1929
ConditionRatification by the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy
SignatoriesPapal States Pietro Gasparri (on behalf of Pius XI)
Fascist Italy Benito Mussolini
Parties Holy See



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.[4] 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:[5]

  • 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[a]
  • A concordat regulating relations between the Catholic Church and the Italian state.

The treaty defines only part of the public funding of the Catholic Church in Italy.


Francesco Pacelli was the right-hand man to Pius XI's Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri during the Lateran Treaty negotiations
Territory of Vatican City State, established by the Lateran Accords
Map of Vatican City

During the unification of Italy in the mid-19th century, the Papal States under Pius IX resisted incorporation into the new nation, even as almost all the other Italian countries 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 sovereign rights 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.[7]

Under the terms of the Law of Guarantees of 1871, the Italian government offered to Pope Pius IX and his successors the use of, but not sovereignty over, the Vatican and Lateran Palaces and a yearly income of Lire 3,250,000. The Holy See refused this settlement, on the grounds that the pope's spiritual jurisdiction required clear independence from any political power, and thereafter each popes considered himself a "prisoner in the Vatican". The Lateran Treaty ended this impasse.

Negotiations for the settlement of the Roman Question began in 1926 between the Holy See and the Fascist government of Italy led by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, and culminated in the agreements of the Lateran Pacts, signed—the Treaty says—for King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy by Mussolini and for Pope Pius XI by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri,[8] on 11 February 1929.[9] It was ratified on 7 June 1929.[10]

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".[11] The attached financial agreement was accepted as settlement of all the claims of the Holy See against Italy from the loss of temporal power over the Papal States in 1870, though the sum agreed to was actually less than Italy had offered in 1871.

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 post-World War II Constitution of the Italian Republic, adopted in 1948, states that relations between the State and the Catholic Church "are regulated by the Lateran Treaties".[3]

In 1984, the concordat was significantly revised. 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."[12] The exclusive state financial support for the Church was also ended, and replaced by financing through a dedicated personal income tax called the otto per mille, to which other religious groups, Christian and non-Christian, also have access. As of 2013, there were ten other religious groups with access.

The revised concordat regulated the conditions under which the state accords legal recognition to church marriages and to ecclesiastical declarations of nullity of marriages.[13] The agreement also ended state recognition of knighthoods and titles of nobility conferred by the Holy See,[14] the right of the state to request ecclesiastical honours for those chosen to perform religious functions for the state or the royal household,[15] and the right of the state to present political objections to the proposed appointment of diocesan bishops.[16]

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.[17][failed verification]



The Italian racial 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.[18] Further, Article 34 of the Concordat had also specified that marriages performed by the Catholic Church would always be considered valid by civil authorities:[19] 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.[19]

See also



  1. ^ The Italian state agreed to pay Lire 750 million immediately plus consolidated bearer bonds with a coupon rate of 5% and a nominal value of Lire 1,000 million. It thus paid less than it would have paid, Lire 3.25 million per annum, under the 1871 Law of Guarantees, which the Holy See had not accepted.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Vatican City turns 91". Vatican News. 11 February 2020. Retrieved 2 September 2021. The world's smallest sovereign state was born on February 11, 1929, with the signing of the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy
  2. ^ A History of Western Society (Tenth ed.). Bedford/St. Martin's. 2010. p. 900.
  3. ^ a b Constitution of Italy, Article 7.
  4. ^ Multiple sources:
  5. ^ Pacts between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, 11 February 1929.
  6. ^ Multiple sources:
  7. ^ Vatican Journal, p. 59 (entry dated June 14, 1931).
  8. ^ Kertzer, Prisoner of the Vatican, p. 292
  9. ^ Rhodes, The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, p. 46
  10. ^ The National Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 266
  11. ^ "Patti lateranensi, 11 febbraio 1929 - Segreteria di Stato, card. Pietro Gasparri".
  12. ^ "Agreement between the Italian Republic and the Holy See (English translation)" (PDF). The American Society of International Law. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 September 2020. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  13. ^ Article 8 of the revised concordat
  14. ^ Articles 41–42 of the 1929 concordat
  15. ^ Article 15 of the 1929 concordat
  16. ^ Article 19 of the 1929 concordat
  17. ^ Elgood, Giles (31 December 2008). "Vatican ends automatic adoption of Italian law". Reuters. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. 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.
  18. ^ Zuccotti, 2000, p. 37.
  19. ^ a b Zuccotti, 2000, p. 48.



Archival sources