The Vatican on Monday announced the arrest of a Spanish high-ranking priest and a laywoman for allegedly leaking confidential documents to the authors of two new books that promise to expose more corruption and intrigue at the Holy See.
"Divulging confidential documents is a crime under the criminal code of the Vatican City State," the Vatican remarked in a press statement.
Aimed at stemming a new scandal - the first since the "Vatileaks" affair which saw Benedict XVI's butler jailed for leaking private papal papers – the strict move shows a less known aspect of the Vatican.
Explainer: How Powerful Is the Vatican?
There is more than prayers in the tiny walled enclave within Rome. As an independent state, the Vatican has its own judicial system, a 130-strong Gendarmerie (military force) in addition to the Swiss Guards (basically the Pope's bodyguards) and can detain prisoners.
Under the Lateran Pacts, an agreement made in 1929 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, the Vatican was recognized as independent state, actually the world's smallest by by area and population.
Until 2008, the Vatican accepted Italian law automatically. Now it examines laws passed by the Italian parliament before accepting them.
Pope Francis' First Mass: Photos
Located just to the south of St. Peter's Basilica, the papal jail is mainly used for pretrial detention.
The prison, currently accommodating Monsignor Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda, the Spanish priest arrested on Monday, has held several guests lately - at least by Vatican standards.
Last year, during the Christmas holidays, a member of the Femen protest movement spent two nights in one of the cells after taking her top off and "kidnapping" the baby Jesus from the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square.
Another cell was occupied during the same period by a man who climbed the facade of St. Peter's Basilica in protest against European economic policies.
Perhaps the most famous inmate in modern times is Paolo Gabriele, pope Benedict's personal butler .
He was arrested on May 23, 2012 for leaking the sensitive documents that gave rise to the Vatileaks scandal and sentenced to 18 months in prison "in the name of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning."
In contrast to the usual arrangement under which prisoners serve time in an Italian prisons, Gabriele served his sentence in the Vatican until he was pardoned by Pope Benedict on Dec. 22, 2012.
Vatican: Pope Does Not Have Brain Cancer
Life wasn't easy for a prisoner of the Vatican, according to Gabriele.
He complained about a small detention cell inside police headquarters with scarcely room to raise his arms. During the first 15 days of his detention, lights were on 24 hours a day, he said.
"All the Vatican jails, including the smaller ones, fully conform to the international detention standards," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi replied.
The Gendarmerie later stated the procedure aimed at preventing Gabriele from harming himself, and that he himself had asked for the light to be left on at night to keep him company.
In modern times , the Vatican's criminal code saw its strictest time from 1929 to 1969. Its law included the death penalty, repealed in Italy in 1948, for anyone who tried to assassinate the Pope.
The measure was never applied and was removed by Pope Paul VI in 1969 - nearly 20 years after Italy had abolished it.