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The Vatican City: 5.9 Popes Per Square Mile

The Vatican City is the smallest sovereign state in the world, and the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. At a mere 0.17 square miles (0.44 square km) and completely surrounded by the city of Rome, it’s tiny.

Really tiny. Let’s compare it to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. From east to west it’s about a half mile:

How about Central Park in Manhattan?

It’s no match for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway? The infield is larger!

According to legend, Betsy Ross’ original American flag was bigger than the Vatican. It shrunk in the wash.

Size isn’t everything, of course, so let’s take a look at the financials.

The most recent data available shows total Vatican wealth of at least ten billion dollars. Against a population of 451, that averages to $22,000,000 for each resident. If Washington, D.C. had comparable wealth, it would total more than $13,000,000,000,000 (thirteen trillion dollars), greater than the current GDP of China.

If the United States as a whole had the same wealth per capita, it would total over $7,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s seven quadrillion, or seven million billion), about 92 times that of the world’s GDP!

That number could use some perspective.

The Washington monument weighs over 90,000 tons.

Heavy, indeed.

What if it were made of solid gold…how much would 90,000 tons of gold be worth?

“I like…gold”
— Goldmember

The latest price of gold is $1,320/oz. At that price, for seven quadrillion dollars, one could afford another 1,841 gold obelisks of the same weight as the Washington Monument.

Incidentally, a gold obelisk the size of the Washington Monument (assuming one solid piece) would weigh 22 trillion pounds and be worth 464 quadrillion dollars: $464,000,000,000,000,000—about 464 million billion bucks.

As it is, there’s not quite that much gold in the world: if you took all the known gold ever mined and started building a Washington Monument, you would get only one-third of the way up before running out.