by Isaac Davis
If you've ever been to
the Vatican, which is actually a sovereign nation, you've seen the
unbelievable wealth owned by the Catholic Church, but how much is
the Vatican really worth?
The Rothschild family is believed to hold some five times more than the combined wealth of the world's 8 top private billionaires, but when it comes to the Vatican, it's much more difficult to assess its overall wealth.
In fact, it's actually practically impossible to pin down the Vatican's wealth, as the sum total depends greatly on how you add up their assets and affiliations with churches around the world, and also on who you ask.
For example, a 1987 investigation into the Vatican's finances by Forbes magazine, claims that the Vatican was nearly broke, spending almost twice as much annually as it brought in.
This is hard to fathom when you consider the sheer material extravagance held within the property itself which features thousands of priceless works of art and gold.
The Vatican is composed of two major entities:
As estimated by Forbes, Vatican wealth is nominal, merely in the hundreds of millions when factoring in the entity's investments and various funds.
The Holy See is,
Employing several thousand laborers tasked with maintaining and securing the premises, as well as members of the clergy, the Holy See serves as the central point for the Catholic Church around the world.
While labor costs are high, the Vatican maintains that its top members still work for 'peanuts.'
Fast forward to 2015, and a CNN Money analysis of the Vatican Bank suggests that the bank holds some $8 billion plus in assets, a number which includes the personal savings of many Vatican employees.
Looking at Vatican wealth on paper is also quite misleading.
Time Magazine ran this assessment of Vatican wealth in 1965, offering an estimate of total wealth, which at that time reached into the tens of billions of dollars.
In other words, estimates are all over the place, and contemporary reporting on this subject is rather slim.
Another dimension to this is the sheer value of all of the priceless works of art housed in Vatican City. Estimating the value of all of this in terms of dollars is impossible, but looking at just one well-known prize, the Sistine Chapel, offers a look at how difficult it is to appraise all of this.
Estimates range from $400 billion all the way up to $2 trillion for just this one masterpiece.
Regarding real estate values of properties held by the Vatican, a 2004 estimate claimed the number was just under a billion dollars.
In short, no one really knows how much wealth the Catholic Church controls, and the organization's secrecy and obfuscation of the facts surrounding its wealth continues to lead investigators on a wild goose chase.
The Vatican's cash-flow is in the hundreds of millions a year, individual holdings in the Vatican Bank total perhaps $15 billion, property held by the Vatican may be worth over a billion dollars, and the Church owns the largest store of the world's most priceless art...