July 20th, 2007 04:06 EST
Vatican Goes Online
For ages it was said to be a place of great mystery and behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Not any more. Vatican City, the residence of the Pope and Catholic Church administration, has launched its new website, www.vaticanstate.va, which lifts the centuries-long veil of secrecy.
The website is available in five languages, English included, and offers a wide range of activities. All visitors can take an interactive lesson on the history of Vatican City, read the country's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano (in Italian and English), and admire the Vatican's magnificent art galleries housing the most famous paintings of Raphael and Michael Angelo.
Without moving from home, Internauts are now able to walk through the famous Vatican gardens, visit Saint Peter's Basilica and have a breathtaking view of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo. The real novelty, however, are webcams which, placed in various places, not only reveal the Vatican's amazing setting, but take online pilgrims to the tomb of late Pope John Paul II.
As with all tourist attractions, Vatican City also boasts a number of souvenirs of all kinds. But, one had to cover thousands of miles to obtain mementos from the Eternal City. Now, the website's shop brings them to one's home. Coins and stamps, as well as multifarious products of Vatican museums hope to attract customers who either have no means or no time to buy them in person. The shop opens in January 2008.
The number of tourists visiting Vatican City is steadily growing. Every year, a country the size of a small town of only 821 residents, hosts millions of visitors, not only Catholics. The publication of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in 2003 as well as the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 have catapulted the Vatican to Europe's major tourist attraction.
It is unknown how many users the website has attracted so far.
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