The Swiss Guards
- The Swiss Guards are the world’s smallest army. They are in charge of looking after the pope and they act as watchmen for Vatican city.
- In 1506, 150 Swiss guardsmen arrived at the Vatican under Pope Julius II. At this time it was sworn that there would be a permanent army of Swiss Guards at the Vatican, as this promise has never been broken, this makes them the oldest standing army in the world – over 500 years old.
- The number of Swiss Guards has now been reduced to 110.
- The competition for becoming a Swiss Guard is very high, and if you want to become one then you need to fulfil these requirements:
- Unmarried Roman Catholic Male
- Swiss Citizenship
- Aged between 19 and 30
- 5’8” or more
- Professional diploma or high school degree
- Trained in the Swiss military.
- Why Swiss? Because the Swiss mercenaries were regarded as the best in the world, they served many other Kings including those from France and Spain They wear their famous blue, yellow and red outfits for ceremonies. This style of uniform is one of the oldest uniforms to be continuously used in the world. Rumour has it that Michelangelo designed them, but that is probably not true.
- They carry pikes and swords for show, but they are trained in modern combat and counterterrorism.
- They live inside the Vatican in a special Swiss Army barracks.
- On the 6th May 1527 nearly all the Swiss Guards were killed during the disastrous sack of Rome. This date is still commemorated by the guards, and is their swearing-in day.
- In 1981 Swiss Guards helped protect John Paul II during an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square.
- In 1998 the Swiss Guard, Alois Estermann, and his wife were killed by another guard, Cédric Tornay, who immediately committed suicide. It is thought that Estermann and Tornay had had a short homosexual affair, before Tornay discovered Estermann had been sleeping with another guard. This was the first known murder in the Vatican for a hundred years.
To learn more about the Swiss Guards join us on a Vatican tour with Roman Empire Tours. You can also see our reviews on tripadvisor.