Swiss Guard

The Pontifical Swiss Guard (also Papal Swiss Guard or simply Swiss Guard; Latin: Cohors Helvetica[2]; Italian: Guardia Svizzera Pontificia; German: Päpstliche Schweizergarde; French: Garde suisse pontificale) is a minor armed forces and honour guards unit maintained by the Holy See that protects the Pope and the Apostolic Palace, serving as the de facto military of Vatican City. Established in 1506 under Pope Julius II, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is among the oldest military units in continuous operation.[3]

The dress uniform is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. The modern guard has the role of bodyguard of the Pope. The Swiss Guard are equipped with traditional weapons, such as the halberd, as well as with modern firearms. Since the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the Guard's non-ceremonial roles, and has seen enhanced training in unarmed combat and small arms.

Recruits to the guards must be unmarried Swiss Catholic males between 19 and 30 years of age who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces.[4]

The unit's security mission is assisted by the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City.

Pontifical Swiss Guard
Banner of the Pontifical Swiss Guard of Pope Francis under the command of Christoph Graf (2015 to present)[1]
Active22 January 1506 – present (513 years)
AllegiancePope Francis
TypeInfantry guards
RoleClose protection
Size135 men
Garrison/HQVatican City
Motto(s)"Acriter et Fideliter"
Fiercely and Faithfully
ColoursRed, yellow & blue
Ceremonial ChiefPope Francis
Commander of the Pontifical Swiss GuardChristoph Graf
Vice CommanderPhilippe Morard
Rom, Vatikan, Soldat der Schweizer Garde 3
A member of the Pontifical Swiss Guard with halberd


Italian Wars

Magius Voyages et aventures detail 09 03
Conclave of Pius V, with Swiss Guard guarding the entrance (Codex Maggi, 1578)
Armor for Papal Guard member, north Italy, 1570-1590 - Higgins Armory Museum - DSC05662
Armour for the Papal Guard of Gregory XIII, c. 1580s (Higgins Armory Museum)
Italy. Papal States, 1860-1868 (NYPL b14896507-1535566).tiff
Uniform and armour style c. 1850 (Pius IX)[5]

The Pontifical Swiss Guard has its origins in the 15th century. Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) had already made an alliance with the Swiss Confederacy and built barracks in Via Pellegrino after foreseeing the possibility of recruiting Swiss mercenaries. The pact was renewed by Innocent VIII (1484–1492) in order to use them against the Duke of Milan. Alexander VI (1492–1503) later actually used the Swiss mercenaries during their alliance with the King of France. During the time of the Borgias, however, the Italian Wars began in which the Swiss mercenaries were a fixture in the front lines among the warring factions, sometimes for France and sometimes for the Holy See or the Holy Roman Empire. The mercenaries enlisted when they heard King Charles VIII of France was going to war with Naples. Among the participants in the war against Naples was Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II (1503–1513), who was well acquainted with the Swiss, having been Bishop of Lausanne years earlier.

The expedition failed, in part thanks to new alliances made by Alexander VI against the French. When Cardinal della Rovere became Pope Julius II in 1503, he asked the Swiss Diet to provide him with a constant corps of 200 Swiss mercenaries. This was made possible through the financing of the German merchants from Augsburg, Bavaria, Ulrich and Jacob Fugger, who had invested in the Pope and saw it fit to protect their investment.[6]

In September 1505, the first contingent of 150 soldiers started their march towards Rome, under the command of Kaspar von Silenen, and entered the city on 22 January 1506, today given as the official date of the Guard's foundation.[7][8]

"The Swiss see the sad situation of the Church of God, Mother of Christianity, and realize how grave and dangerous it is that any tyrant, avid for wealth, can assault with impunity, the common Mother of Christianity," declared Huldrych Zwingli, a Swiss Catholic who later became a Protestant reformer. Pope Julius II later granted them the title "Defenders of the Church's freedom".[9]

The force has varied greatly in size over the years and has even been disbanded. Its most significant hostile engagement was on 6 May 1527, when 147 of the 189 Guards, including their commander, died fighting the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the stand of the Swiss Guard during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Clement VII to escape through the Passetto di Borgo, escorted by the other 42 guards. The last stand battlefield is located on the left side of St Peter's Basilica, close to the Campo Santo Teutonico (German Graveyard). Clement VII was forced to replace the Swiss Guard by a contingent of 200 German mercenaries (Custodia Peditum Germanorum). Ten years later, under Pope Paul III, the Swiss Guard was reinstated, under commander Jost von Meggen.

Early modern history

After the end of the Italian Wars, the Swiss Guard ceased to be used as a military combat unit in the service of the pope and its role became mostly that of the protection of the person of the pope and of a ceremonial guard. However, twelve members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard of Pius V served as part of the Swiss Guard of admiral Marcantonio Colonna in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.[10]

The office of commander of the Papal Guard came to be a special honour in the Catholic part of the Swiss Confederacy. It became strongly associated with the leading family of Lucerne, Pfyffer von Altishofen. Between 1652 and 1847, nine out a total of ten commanders were members of this family (the exception being Johann Kaspar Mayr von Baldegg, also of Lucerne, served 1696–1704).

In 1798, commander Franz Alois Pfyffer von Altishofen went into exile with the deposed Pius VI. After the death of the pope on 29 August 1799, the Swiss Guard was disbanded and only reinstated by Pius VII in 1801. In 1808, Rome was again captured by the French and the guard was disbanded again. Pius VII was exiled to Fontainebleau. The guard was reinstated under the same commander, Karl Leodegar Pfyffer von Altishofen, when the pope returned from exile in 1814.

Vatican Swiss Guards
Vatican Swiss Guards 2017

Modern history

The guard was disbanded yet again in 1848, when Pius IX fled to Gaeta, but was reinstated when the pope returned to Rome in the following year.

In the later 19th century, the Swiss Guard declined into a purely ceremonial body with low standards. Guards in the Vatican were "Swiss" only in name, mostly born in Rome to parents of Swiss descent and speaking the Roman Trastevere dialect. The guards were trained solely for ceremonial parade, kept only a few obsolete rifles in store and wore civilian dress when drilling or in barracks. Administration, accommodation, discipline and organization were neglected and the unit numbered only about 90 men out of an authorized establishment of 133.[11]

The modern Swiss Guard is the product of the reforms pursued by Jules Repond, commander during 1910–1921. Repond proposed to recruit only native citizens of Switzerland and he introduced rigorous military exercises. He also attempted to introduce modern arms, but Pius X only permitted the presence of firearms if they were not functional. Repond's reforms and strict discipline were not well received by the corps, culminating in a week of open mutiny in July 1913 and the subsequent dismissal of thirteen ringleaders from the guard.[12]

In his project to restore the Swiss Guard to its former prestige, Repond also dedicated himself to the study of historical costume, with the aim of designing a new uniform that would be both reflective of the historical Swiss costume of the 16th century and suited for military exercise. The result of his studies was published as Le costume de la Garde suisse pontificale et la Renaissance italienne (1917). Repond designed the distinctive Renaissance-style uniforms still worn by the modern Swiss Guard. The introduction of the new uniforms was completed in May 1914.

The foundation of Vatican City as a modern sovereign state was negotiated in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The duties of protecting public order and security in the Vatican lay with the Papal Gendarmerie Corps, while the Swiss Guard, the Palatine Guard and the Noble Guard served mostly ceremonial functions. The Palatine and Noble Guards were disbanded by Paul VI in 1970, leaving the Swiss Guard as the only ceremonial guard unit of the Vatican. At the same time, the Gendarmerie Corps was transformed into a Central Security Office, with the duties of protecting the Pope, defending Vatican City, and providing police and security services within its territory, while the Swiss Guard continued to serve ceremonial functions only. Paul VI in a decree of 28 June 1976 defined the nominal size of the corps at 90 men. This was increased to 100 men by John Paul II on 5 April 1979. As of 2010 the guard numbered 107 halberdiers divided into three squads, plus five officers.[13]

Since the assassination attempt on John Paul II of 13 May 1981, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the guard's non-ceremonial roles.[14] The Swiss Guard has developed into a modern guard corps equipped with modern small arms, and members of the Swiss Guard in plain clothes now accompany the pope on his travels abroad for his protection.

On 4 May 1998 commander Alois Estermann was murdered on the day of his promotion. Estermann and his wife, Gladys Meza Romero, were killed by the young guardsman Cédric Tornay, who later committed suicide. The case received considerable public attention and became the subject of a number of conspiracy theories involving either Cold War politics or the Opus Dei controversy. British journalist John Follain who published a book on the case in 2006 concluded that the killer acted purely on personal motivation.[15]

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guard, in April–May 2006, 80 former guardsmen marched from Bellinzona in southern Switzerland to Rome, recalling the march of the original 200 Swiss guards to take up Papal service, in 1505. The march had been preceded by other celebrations in Lucerne, including a rally of veterans of the Guard and a Mass.[16] In a public ceremony on 6 May 2006, 33 new guards were sworn in on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica instead of the traditional venue in the San Damaso Courtyard. The date chosen marked the anniversary of the Sack of Rome when the Swiss Guard had been nearly destroyed. Present at this event were representatives of the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company of London and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.

In December 2014, Pope Francis directed that Daniel Anrig's term as commander should end on 31 January 2015, being replaced by his deputy Christoph Graf. This followed reports about Anrig's "authoritarian style".[17]

With the rise of Islamic terrorism in Europe and open threats against the Vatican issued by the Islamic State (ISIS), Vatican officials in 2015 collaborated with Italian authorities to improve the protection of Vatican City against attacks that cannot be reasonably defended against by the Swiss Guard and Vatican police, notably against drone attacks.[18]

Recruitment and service

Swiss guard swearing in
Oath ceremony in the Paul VI Audience Hall (6 May 2013)
Group of swiss guards inside saint peter dome
Group of Pontifical Swiss Guard inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Recruits to the guards must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces and can obtain certificates of good conduct. Recruits must have a professional degree or high school diploma and must be between 19 and 30 years of age and at least 174 cm (5 ft 8.5 in) tall.[4] In 2009, the Pontifical Swiss Guard commandant, Daniel Anrig, suggested that the Guard might someday be open to recruiting women, but he added that the admission of female recruits remained far in the future.[19]

Qualified candidates must apply to serve. If accepted, new guards are sworn on 6 May every year in the San Damaso Courtyard (Italian: Cortile di San Damaso) in the Vatican (6 May is the anniversary of the Sack of Rome). The chaplain of the guard reads aloud the oath in the languages of the guard (German, Italian, and French):[20][21]

(English translation) I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff (name of pope) and his legitimate successors, and dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing, if necessary, my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the Apostolic See is vacant. Furthermore I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. I swear to observe all that the honor of my position demands of me.

When his name is called, each new guard approaches the Pontifical Swiss Guard's flag, grasping the banner in his left hand. He raises his right hand with his thumb, index, and middle finger extended along three axes, a gesture that symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and swears in his native tongue:

(German version) Ich schwöre, alles das, was mir soeben vorgelesen wurde, gewissenhaft und treu zu halten, so wahr mir Gott und seine Heiligen helfen.[22]

(Italian version) Giuro d’osservare fedelmente, lealmente e onorevolmente tutto ciò che in questo momento mi è stato letto, che Iddio e i Suoi Santi mi assistano.[22]

(French version) Je jure d’observer, loyalement et de bonne foi, tout ce qui vient de m’être lu aussi vrai que Dieu et ses Saints m’assistent.[22]

(English translation) I swear to diligently and faithfully abide by all that has just been read out to me, so help me God and his Saints.

"Those who are accepted serve for a minimum of two years, but can also stay in service for an additional year or two, which was the case for many guards during last year’s Jubilee of Mercy." (2015) [23] Regular guardsmen (halberdiers) receive a tax-free salary of EUR 1,300 per month (as of 2015) plus extra pay for hours worked overtime. In addition, accommodation and boarding are provided.[24] Members of the guard are eligible for Vatican decorations. The Benemerenti medal is usually awarded after three years of faithful service.


Swiss guards in the Vatican City, 2010
Tricolor full dress uniform worn with black beret.
Rom, Vatikan, Soldat der Schweizer Garde 2
Morion helmet with red feathers.
Swiss Guardsman in regular duty uniform
A Swiss Guardsman in regular duty service dress uniform.

The official full dress uniform is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. It was introduced by commandant Jules Repond (1910–1921) in 1914.[25] Repond's design was inspired by 16th-century depictions of the Swiss Guard. While both Michelangelo and a painting of the Pontifical Swiss Guard bearing Pope Julius II on a litter (by Raphael) are often cited as inspiration for the Pontifical Swiss Guard uniform,[25] the actual uniforms worn by those soldiers included a flaring skirt;[26] a common feature in male clothing during the Renaissance. A clear expression of the modern Pontifical Swiss Guard uniform can be seen in a 1577 fresco by Jacopo Coppi of the Empress Eudoxia conversing with Pope Sixtus III. It shows the precursor of today's recognisable three-colored uniform with boot covers, white gloves, a high or ruff collar, and either a black beret or a black Comb morion (silver for high occasions). Sergeants wear a black top with crimson leggings, while other officers wear an all-crimson uniform. The colours blue and yellow were in use from the 16th century, said to be chosen to represent the Della Rovere coat of arms of Julius II, with the colour red added to represent the Medici coat of arms of Leo X.

The ordinary guardsmen and the sub-corporals wear the "tricolor" (yellow, blue and red) uniform without any rank distinctions except for a different model of halberd in gala dress. The corporals have red braid insignia on their cuffs and use a different, more spear-like, halberd.

Headwear is typically a black beret for daily duties, while a black or silver morion helmet with red, white, yellow, black, and purple ostrich feathers is worn for ceremonial duties, the former for guard duty or drill; the latter for high ceremonial occasions such as the annual swearing in ceremony or reception of foreign heads of state. Historically brightly coloured pheasant or heron feathers were used.[27] The senior non-commissioned and warrant officers have a different type of uniform. All sergeants have essentially the same pattern of dress as ordinary guardsmen, but with black tunics and red breeches. Every sergeant has a red plume on his helmets, except for the Sergeant Major, who displays distinctive white feathers. When the gala uniform is worn, sergeants have a different pattern of armor with a gold cord across the chest.

The commissioned officers (Captains, Major, Vice-Commander and Commander) are distinguished by a completely red uniform with a different style of breeches, and golden embroidery on the sleeves. They have a longer sword, which is used when commanding a group or a squadron of guards. In gala dress all ranks use a bigger purple plume on their helmets, except for the Commander, who has a white one. Usually the Commander and the Chief of Staff (usually the Vice-Commander) use armor when present at gala ceremonies. On such occasions "armor complete" - including sleeve armor, is worn. Except for ceremonial occasions and exercises officers of the guard wear civilian dress when on duty.[13]

The tailors of the Swiss Guard work inside the Vatican barracks. There the uniform for each guardsman is tailor-made individually.[28] The total set of Renaissance style clothing weighs 8 pounds (3.6 kg), and may be the heaviest and most complicated uniform in use by any standing army today. A single uniform requires 154 pieces and takes nearly 32 hours and 3 fittings to complete.[29]

The modern regular duty service dress uniform is more functional, consisting of a simpler solid blue version of the more colorful tricolor grand gala uniform, worn with a simple brown belt, a flat white collar and a black beret.[25] For new recruits and rifle practice, a simple light blue overall with a brown belt may be worn. During cold or inclement weather, a dark blue cape is worn over the regular uniform.

In 2019, after 500+ years, the Swiss Guard will receive new and modernized helmets. The old metal helmet has been replaced by a 21st century high-tech, 3D-printed version, made of UV-resistant PVC, a common type of plastic. The new helmets will have hidden air vents to better keep the guards cool in the warm Roman sun. The new design was created by engineer Peter Portmann and Swiss firm 3D-Prototyp, by scanning the 16th century original to create a model which was then molded in PVC and painted with a water-based, UV resistant paint. It now takes just one day to make a helmet, whereas the metal model took several days. [30]


Sword of the Swiss Guard
The sword worn by the Pontifical Swiss Guard

The eponymous main weapon of the halbardiers is the halberd; corporals and vice-corporals are equipped with a partisan polearm. Ranks above corporal do not have polearms, but on certain ceremonial occasions carry command batons. The banner is escorted by two flamberge great swords carried by corporals or vice-corporals. A dress sword is carried by all ranks, swords with a simple S-shaped crossguard by the lower ranks, and elaborate basket-hilt rapiers in the early baroque style by officers.

Arms and armour used by the Swiss Guard are kept in the Armeria (armoury). The Armeria also contains a collection of historical weapons no longer in use.[31][32] The armoury preserves a collection of historical plate armour (cuirasses or half-armour). The oldest specimens date to c. 1580, while the majority originates in the 18th century. Historical armour was worn on the occasion of canonizations until 1970, since 1970 their use has been limited to the oath ceremony on 6 May. A full set of replicas of the historical cuirasses was commissioned in 2012, from Waffen und Harnischschmiede Schmidberger in Molln, Upper Austria in 2012. The cuirasses are handmade, and the production of a single piece takes about 120 hours.[33] The replicas are not financed by the Vatican itself but by private donations via the Foundation for the Swiss Guard in the Vatican, a Fribourg-based organisation established in 2000.[34]

The Swiss Guard in their function as bodyguards are equipped with the SIG Sauer P220 pistol and the SIG SG 550 rifle (or its SG 552 variant) also in use by the Swiss Army. As recruits to the Swiss Guard must have passed basic military training in Switzerland, they are already familiar with these weapons when they begin their service. The pepper spray used by the Swiss Army (RSG-2000) is also in use. The Glock 19 pistol and Heckler & Koch MP7 submachine gun are reportedly also carried by Swiss Guard members in their function as plainclothes bodyguards.[35]

In the 19th century (prior to 1870), the Swiss Guard along with the Papal Army used firearms with special calibres such as the 12,7 mm Remington Papal.[36] The Swiss Guard historically also used the M1842 T.59-67, 1871 Vetterli, Schmidt-Rubin K31 and SIG SG 510 rifles, the Dreyse M1907 pistol, and the SIG MKMO, Hispano-Suiza MP43/44 and Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns.[35]

Ranks and insignia

Commissioned officers
Non-commissioned officers

Table of shoulder marks worn by officers.

OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) & Student officer
Vatican City Vatican City
No equivalent
Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain No equivalent
Oberst Oberstleutnant Major Hauptmann

Table of sleeve insignia worn by other ranks.

NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Vatican City Vatican City
No equivalent
Vatican-OR-07.svg No equivalent Vatican-OR-05.svg Vatican-OR-04.svg Vatican-OR-03.svg No equivalent Vatican-OR-01.svg
Feldweibel Wachtmeister Korporal Vizekorporal Hellebardier

Table of cap badges worn on berets and other headdress.

Colonel (Oberst) Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant) Major (Major) Captain (Hauptmann) Sergeant Major (Feldweibel) Sergeant (Wachtmeister) Corporal (Korporal) Vice Corporal (Vizekorporal)
1 1 (+ Chaplain) 1 2 1 5 10 10
CommanderGSPInsignia v2
ViceCommanderGSPInsignia v2
MajorGSPInsignia v2
CaptainGSPInsignia v2
SergeantMajorGSPInsignia v2
SergeantGSPInsignia v2
CorporalGSPInsignia v2
ViceCorporalGSP Insignia v2

The banner of the Swiss Guard under Pope John Paul II and commander Elmar Mäder (2002–2005)
C o a popes Della Rovere
The della Rovere coat of arms, used by Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere, r. 1471–1484) and by his nephew Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere, r. 1503-1513), azure, an oak tree eradicated or, its four branches interlaced in saltire.[37]

The design of the banner of the Pontifical Swiss Guard banner has been changed several times. A fresco by Polidoro da Caravaggio in the burial chapel of the guard in Santa Maria della Pietà in Campo Santo Teutonico, commissioned by the second commander, Marx Röist, in 1522, depicts the commander of the guard flanked by two banners. An early reference to the guard's banner (vennly) dates to 1519, although the design of that banner is unknown. An early surviving banner is on display in the Sala Regia. The banner would change with each pontificate, and depict the colours of the coat of arms of the reigning pope. The modern colours of the Swiss Guard, introduced in the early 20th century, are those of the House of Medici, first used under the Medici popes and depicted in a fresco by Giuseppe Porta (1520–1575).[38] Under Pius IX (Mastai Ferretti, r. 1846-1878), it was divided into three horizontal fields, displaying the coat of arms of the Holy See (keys in saltire surmounted by the papal tiara on a red field), the Swiss flag (a white cross with two laurel branches on a red field) and a yellow field without heraldic charge. On the reverse side of the banner was the papal coat of arms of Pius IX. Under Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre, r. 1903–1914) and commander Leopold Meyer von Schauensee (1901–1910), the top field displayed the papal coat of arms in a blue field, in the center field was red without heraldic charge and the bottom field displayed the family coat of arms of the guard commander.[39]

The modern design of the banner was first used under commander Jules Repond of Freiburg (1910–1921).[40] The modern banner is a square divided by a white cross into quarters (in the tradition of the banners historically used by the Swiss Guards in the 18th century). In the fourth quarter (lower right) is Pope Julius II's coat of arms; in the first quarter (upper left) that of the reigning Pope. The other two quarters display the Swiss Guard's colours (red, yellow and blue, the colours of the House of Medici), and in the center of the cross is the commander's own coat of arms. The current banner (As of 2016) thus shows the coat of arms of Pope Francis in the first quarter and a vignette of the family coat of arms of Christoph Graf in the center. It has dimensions of 2.2 m squared, woven in a damask pattern of pomegranates and thistles, in what is known as "Julius-damask" based on the Julius banners of 1512. The central vignette is embroidered on the backdrop of the colours of the flag of Lucerne. The guard colours in the second quarter (upper right) were reversed so that the second and third quarters are identical. The banner was completed in April 2015, and it was first used for the oath of service of new recruits on 6 May 2015.[1]

Even though the banner is carried out during ceremonies and the Urbi et Orbi address and blessing twice a year, during the current term of Pope Francis, only the Flag of Vatican City is used instead of the banner during ceremonial occasions as a sort of National Colour whenever the Pope is present.

See also


  1. ^ a b Werner Affentranger, Fahne Gardekommandant Graf (Gardefahne) (Maa 2015). The banner colonel Graf was completed in April 2015. Its central vignette displays the family coat of arms of Graf of Pfaffnau, "gules a plowshare argent and antlers or". WH 1/396.1 Familienwappen \ Familie: Graf \ Heimatgemeinden: Altbüron, Dagmersellen, Pfaffnau, Schötz, Triengen (State Archives of Lucerne).
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Swiss Guard has been repeatedly disbanded, most notably for a twenty-year period during 1527–1548, and briefly in 1564/5, in 1798/9 and during 1808–1814. "Spotlight on the Swiss Guard". Retrieved 8 February 2015. Extant units of comparable age include the English Yeomen of the Guard, established in 1485, and the 1st King's Immemorial Infantry Regiment of AHQ of the Spanish Army (Regimiento de Infantería "Inmemorial del Rey" nº 1). "Regimiento de Infantería "Inmemorial del Rey" nº 1". Ejército de Tierra - Ministerio de Defensa - España. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b Admission requirements Official Vatican web page, Roman Curia, Swiss Guards, retrieved 7 August 2006
  5. ^ "Suisse en Cuirasse", G. Perugini Costumes de la cour de Rome (1852), pl. 42.
  6. ^ Pölnitz, Götz Freiherr von (6 May 2018). Jakob Fugger: Quellen und Erläuterungen. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 9783168145721 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Peter Quardi: Kaspar von Silenen in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2011.
  8. ^ McCormack, John (1 September 1993). One Million Mercenaries: Swiss Soldiers in the Armies of the World. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473816909. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  9. ^ History of the Pontifical Swiss Guards Official Vatican web page, Roman Curia, Swiss Guards, retrieved on 7 August 2006.
  10. ^ Alois Lütolf, Die Schweizergarde in Rom: Bedeutung und Wirkungen im sechszehnten Jahrhundert : nebst brieflichen Nachrichten zur Geschichte jenes Zeitalters von den Gardeofficieren (1859), p. 78.
  11. ^ Alvarez, David (2011). The Pope's Soldiers. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-7006-1770-8.
  12. ^ Alvarez, David (2011). The Pope's Soldiers. pp. 288–290. ISBN 978-0-7006-1770-8.
  13. ^ a b Alvarez, David (2011). The Pope's Soldiers. p. 368. ISBN 978-0-7006-1770-8.
  14. ^ Alvarez, David (2011). The Pope's Soldiers. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-7006-1770-8.
  15. ^ John Follain, City of Secrets: The Truth behind the murders at the Vatican (2006).
  16. ^ BBC News, Sunday 22 January 2006
  17. ^ "Pope Francis dismisses 'authoritarian' Swiss Guard commander". BBC News. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  18. ^ Swiss Guard Commander on ISIS Threat to Pope: ‘We Are Ready to Intervene’, National Catholic Register, 24 February 2015. "Vatican on alert for Islamic State attacks against Pope Francis", Reuters, 3 March 2015. Eric J. Lyman, Protecting Vatican from terrorists is an 'enormous' challenge, USA Today, 29 November 2015. Andrew Woods, In Defence of His Holiness: the Pontifical Swiss Guard and the Islamic State, Foreign Affairs Review, 1 December 2015.
  19. ^ "Pope thanks Pontifical Swiss Guard for dedicated, loyal service", Catholic News Service, 7 May 2009
  20. ^ "May 6th: The Recruits Take their Oath of Loyalty". Vatican - The Holy See. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  21. ^ "Swearing-in". Holy See. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  22. ^ a b c "Formula del Giuramento (Oath of Loyalty)" (in German, French, and Italian). Vatican - The Holy See. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  23. ^ "The Swiss Guard is more than an army – it's a school of faith".
  24. ^ "Interview with a Papal Swiss Guard". Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  25. ^ a b c "The Pontifical Swiss Guard – Uniforms". The Vatican. Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  26. ^ Preben Kannik, plate 1 "Military Uniforms of the World", SBN 71370482 9
  27. ^ "The Swiss Guard - The Uniform of the Swiss Guards". Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2017-08-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ National Geographic: Inside the Vatican,2001
  30. ^
  31. ^ Chris Eger (16 April 2017). "Guns of the Vatican's Swiss Guard". Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  32. ^ Tyler Rogoway (28 September 2015). "The Pope Has A Small But Deadly Army Of Elite Warriors Protecting Him". Foxtrot Alpha. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  33. ^ Harald Pöcher, Österreichische Waffen für die Schweizergarde DER SOLDAT 15/2012. Johanna Wedl Rüstungen für Schweizer Garde NZZ 16 February 2013.
  34. ^ Harnischreplikate Fondazione GSP (, 2013.
  35. ^ a b Chris Eger, Guns of the Swiss Guard ( 13 April 2014.
  36. ^ 12,7 mm Remington Papal (; see also database.
  37. ^ John Woodward, A Treatise On Ecclesiastical Heraldry (1894), p. 161.
  38. ^ Die Fahne der Päpstlichen Schweizergarde (, 4 May 2015.
  39. ^ Stefan Vogler, Sacco di Roma; Plünderung von Rom (2015), p. 19.
  40. ^ Gardefahnen der Schweizergarde (


  • Alvarez, David. The Pope's Soldiers: A Military History of the Modern Vatican. University Press of Kansas, 2011.
  • Richard, Christian-Roland Marcel. La Guardia Svizzera Pontificia nel corso dei secoli. Leonardo International, 2005.
  • Royal, Robert. The Pope's Army: 500 Years of the Papal Swiss Guard. Crossroads Publishing Co, 2006.
  • Roland Beck-von Büren: Päpstliche Schweizergarde in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2005-08-29.
  • Serrano, Antonio. Die Schweizergarde der Päpste. Verlagsanstalt, Bayerland, 1992.

External links

Battle of Pavia

The Battle of Pavia, fought on the morning of 24 February 1525, was the decisive engagement of the Italian War of 1521–26.

An Imperial–Spanish army under the nominal command of Charles de Lannoy (and working in conjunction with the garrison of Pavia, commanded by Antonio de Leyva) attacked the French army under the personal command of Francis I of France in the great hunting preserve of Mirabello outside the city walls. In the four-hour battle, the French army was split and defeated in detail. The French suffered massive casualties, including many of the chief nobles of France. Francis himself was captured by Habsburg troops and imprisoned by Charles V and forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Madrid, surrendering significant territory to his captor. The outcome of the battle cemented Habsburg ascendancy in Italy.

Ceremonial weapon

A ceremonial weapon is an object used for ceremonial purposes to display power or authority. They are often used in parades and as part of dress uniforms.

Although they are descended from weapons used in actual combat, they are not normally used as such. Their form and, especially, their finishing and decoration are typically designed to show status and power and to be an impressive sight, rather than for practicality as a weapon. Quite often, ceremonial weapons are constructed with precious metals or other materials that make them too delicate for combat use. With ceremonial swords, an example of this is that the sword may be poorly balanced. Historically, however, many ceremonial weapons were also capable of actual combat, most notably in the military.

Maces, halberds, daggers and swords are the most common form of ceremonial weapons, but in theory almost any weapon can become ceremonial. The Sergeant at Arms in some parliaments carries a ceremonial mace. The Swiss Guard in the Vatican carry both ceremonial weapons (halberds and swords) and 21st century weapons (semi-automatic pistols). Mid 20th century rifles such as the American M14 and the Russian SKS, fitted with polished wood stocks, chrome plating and other decorative finishes, are common ceremonial weapons for honor guard units.

Another example is the use of a firearm to signal the start of a race. Guns are also used in celebratory gunfire.

Crime in Vatican City

Crime in the Vatican City consists largely of purse snatching, pick-pocketing and shoplifting by tourists. The tourist foot-traffic in St. Peter's Square is one of the main locations for pickpockets in Vatican City.

Daniel Anrig

Daniel Rudolf Anrig (born 10 July 1972) was the thirty fourth Commandant of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 August 2008, He replaced Elmar Mäder who had served as Commandant of the Swiss Guard since 2002.

He was succeeded by Christoph Graf as his term ended on 31 January 2015 and was not extended by Pope Francis.Anrig was born in Walenstadt (Canton of St. Gallen), Switzerland. He is married and has four children. Anrig served as halberdier in the Swiss Guard between 1992 and 1994. He graduated in civil and ecclesiastical law from the University of Fribourg in 1999.

Anrig held the rank of a captain in the Swiss Army.

He was head of criminal police in the canton of Glarus, from 2002 to 2006 when he became commanding general of the police body of the canton of Glarus.

Since July 2015 Anrig has been head of a section of the Zürich Airport corps of Kantonspolizei Zürich.

Holy See–Switzerland relations

Foreign relations between the Holy See and Switzerland are among the oldest bilateral diplomatic relations, beginning with the admission of a papal nuncio to Lucerne in 1586. About 40% of the Swiss population are Catholics, and young Swiss men have served for centuries in the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

The bilateral relationship became lastingly fraught during the second half of the 19th century, after the modern Swiss state emerged from a civil war in which the mostly liberal and Protestant cantons defeated the Sonderbund, an alliance of conservative and Catholic cantons that had enjoyed the strong support of the Holy See. In 1873, at the height of the Kulturkampf, the Swiss Federal Council ordered the papal nuncio to leave Switzerland, ending diplomatic relations for about 50 years until the Catholic foreign minister Giuseppe Motta was able to convince his colleagues to allow the return of a nuncio to Bern.Switzerland, however, remained without diplomatic representation with the Holy See until 1991, when the government appointed a non-resident special envoy, which it upgraded to ambassadorial status in 2004. This makes Switzerland one of the relatively few countries with an active diplomatic network not to be represented at the Vatican with an ambassador resident in Rome.

Index of Vatican City-related articles

This is an index of Vatican City-related topics.

List of commanders of the Pontifical Swiss Guard

The Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard is the head of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. In total, there have been 35 commanders of the Swiss Guard serving 51 popes, with interruptions during 1527–1548 following the Sack of Rome, in 1564/5, in 1704–1712 and in 1798/9 following the French invasion.

24 out of 35 commanders were citizens of the city of Lucerne (not counting the incumbent, Christoph Graf, who is from Pfaffnau in the canton of Lucerne). During 1652–1847 the office became quasi-heritable, with ten commanders members of the Pfyffer von Altishofen family of Lucerne.

Two commanders were from Zürich, serving during the years of the Swiss Reformation; in modern times, three commanders were from St. Gallen, two from Fribourg, and one each from Solothurn, Grisons and Valais.

List of universities in Vatican City

This is a list of accredited institutes of higher education — e.g. universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, conservatories, and institutes of technology — located in, or near, Vatican City. More specifically, the buildings are in Rome: there are no universities inside the official boundaries of Vatican City, due to restricted public access such as border checkpoints and security checkpoints run by the Pontifical Swiss Guard or the Italian police. According to the Lateran Treaty, these buildings enjoy the same status, recognized by international law, as embassies and foreign diplomatic missions abroad. The areas occupied by the buildings are commonly known as extraterritorial.There are about 65 educational institutions around Rome that address papal education and learning, including the most important ones concentrating on ecclesiastical faculties (Theology, Philosophy and Canon Law), which are known as Pontifical universities.

Military in Vatican City

The Vatican City State is a neutral nation, which has not engaged in any war since its formation in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty. It has no formal military compact or agreement with neighbouring Italy, although responsibility for defending the Vatican City from an international aggressor is likely to lie primarily with the Italian Armed Forces. Although the Vatican City State has never been at war, its forces were exposed to military aggression when it was bombed during World War II, and whilst defending Vatican property in Rome during the same conflict.

Although the former Papal States were defended by a relatively large Papal Army (including the Corsican Guard, active from 1603 to 1662) and a Papal Navy, a majority of these forces were disbanded when the Papal States ceased to exist in 1870. Immediately prior to the disbandment, the Esercito Pontificio (Papal Army) comprised two regiments of locally recruited Italian infantry, two Swiss regiments, a battalion of Irish volunteers, artillery and dragoons, plus the international Catholic volunteer corps the Papal Zouaves, formed in 1861 to oppose Italian unification. Following defeat and abolition of the States by the Kingdom of Italy, four small Papal units (the Pontifical Swiss Guard, the Noble Guard, the Palatine Guard, and the Papal Gendarmerie Corps) were retained, but restricted their activity to the Vatican in Rome.

Upon the 1929 formation of the Vatican City State, a unique form of sovereignty was defined. Under this agreement sovereignty is vested in the much more ancient Holy See, which is an ecclesiastical jurisdiction; but that sovereignty is exercised over the actual nation state of the Vatican City, an area of 110 acres defined in a map appended to the treaty, together with certain other properties formally located within the Italian state, but granted extraterritoriality.

The Vatican City State has never had independent armed forces, but it has always had a de facto military provided by the armed forces of the Holy See: the Pontifical Swiss Guard, the Noble Guard, the Palatine Guard, and the Papal Gendarmerie Corps. In practical terms, these armed forces have operated chiefly within the Vatican City State and the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, and not in the many other extraterritorial properties of the Holy See, except during the time of World War Two when troops of the Palatine Guard were deployed to all Papal properties in and around Rome.

As part of a major reform in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, two of the units were disbanded, one was retained, and one was restructured into a civilian police service.

Passetto di Borgo

The Passetto di Borgo, or simply Passetto, is an elevated passage that links the Vatican City with the Castel Sant'Angelo. It is an approximately 800 metres (2,600 ft) long corridor, located in the rione of Borgo. It was erected in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, but parts of the wall were built by Totila during the Gothic War. On two occasions it served as an escape route for Popes in danger.

Pope Alexander VI crossed it in 1494, when Charles VIII invaded the city and the pope's life was in peril.

Clement VII escaped to safety through this passage during the Sack of Rome in 1527, when troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, massacred almost the entire Swiss Guard on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.


Pfyffer is a Swiss family and surname, originally members of the patriciate of the city of Lucerne.

Several generations of representatives of this family (11 in total between 1652 and 1982) were commanders of the Pontifical Swiss Guard,

The Pfyffer family was the most powerful family in Lucerne during the early modern period. In the later 16th century it was divided into the lineages Pfyffer von Altishofen, Pfyffer von Wyher and Pfyffer von Heidegg after their respective seats in Altishofen, Wyher (Ettiswil) and Heidegg (Hitzkirch). The two latter branches are extinct and the modern Pfyffer surname indicates membership in the Pfyffer von Altishofen family.

The family is descended from Johannes Pfyffer, who received Lucerne citizenship in 1483 and was a member of the lesser city council from 1508, and his son Leodegar Pfyffer, who was the treasurer of Lucerne.

One of Leodegar's four sons was Ludwig Pfyffer (1524–1594) who established Lucerne as the leading Catholic canton in the reaction to the Swiss Reformation. Ludwig Pfyffer had substantial political and military influence both in Switzerland and France, and was popularly called the "king of the Swiss". He was also the architect of his family's lasting influence in Lucerne.

Commanders of the Pontifical Swiss Guard:

10. Johann Rudolf Pfyffer von Altishofen (1652–1657)

11. Ludwig Pfyffer von Altishofen (1658–1686)

12. Franz Pfyffer von Altishofen (1686–1696)

14. Johann Konrad Pfyffer von Altishofen (1712–1727)

15. Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Altishofen (1727–1754)

16. Jost Ignaz Pfyffer von Altishofen (1754–1782)

17. Franz Alois Pfyffer von Altishofen (1783–1798)

18. Karl Leodegar Pfyffer von Altishofen (1800–1834)

19. Martin Pfyffer von Altishofen (1835–1847)

27. Heinrich Pfyffer von Altishofen (1942–1957)

29. Franz Pfyffer von Altishofen (1972–1982)Other notable people with the name:

Ludwig Pfyffer (1524–1594), Lucerne political and military leader, central figure of Swiss Counter-Reformation

Franz Ludwig Pfyffer (1716–1802), Lucerne officer, politician and topographer, Lieutenant General in French service. Inventor of the relief map.

Alphons Pfyffer von Heidegg (1753–1822), Lucerne officer and politician, member of the Directorion of Helvetic Republic

Casimir Pfyffer (1794–1875), Swiss politician and jurist, mayor of Lucerne, President of the Swiss National Council and President of the Federal Supreme Court

Alphons Maximilian Pfyffer von Altishofen (1834–1890), Swiss architect and military Chief of Staff

Roman Curia

The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope’s name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the central organization for the Church to advance its objectives.The structure and organization of responsibilities within the Curia are at present regulated by the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus, issued by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988, which Pope Francis has decided to revise.Other bodies that play an administrative or consulting role in Church affairs are sometimes mistakenly identified with the Curia, such as the Synod of Bishops and regional conferences of bishops. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in 2015 that "the Synod of Bishops is not a part of the Roman Curia in the strict sense: it is the expression of the collegiality of bishops in communion with the Pope and under his direction. The Roman Curia instead aids the Pope in the exercise of his primacy over all the Churches."

Sack of Rome (1527)

The Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527 was a military event carried out in Rome (then part of the Papal States) by the mutinous troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It marked a crucial imperial victory in the conflict between Charles and the League of Cognac (1526–1529)—the alliance of France, Milan, Venice, Florence and the Papacy.

San Pellegrino in Vaticano

The Church of San Pellegrino in Vaticano (English: Saint Peregrine in the Vatican) is an ancient Roman Catholic oratory in the Vatican City, located on the Via dei Pellegrini. The church is dedicated to Saint Peregrine of Auxerre, a Roman priest appointed by Pope Sixtus II who had suffered martyrdom in Gaul in the third century. It is one of the oldest churches in the Vatican City.The church built by Pope Leo III (750 AD - 816 AD) around 800 first received the name of "San Pellegrino in Naumachia", making reference to the naumachia built northwest of the Castel Sant'Angelo and dedicated by Roman emperor Trajan in 109. In the seventeenth century, Pope Clement X granted the church to the Pontifical Swiss Guards, who used it for their religious services in combination with the church of Santi Martino e Sebastiano degli Svizzeri until 1977. Under the name of San Pellegrino degli Svizzeri (English: Saint Peregrine of the Swiss), it became the national church in Rome of Switzerland. The oratory later fell into disrepair but was restored in the 19th century when evidence of the 9th-century frescoes were discovered.

The church now serves as the chapel of the Pontifical Gendarmerie and the firefighters of the Vatican City and is entrusted to the care of the chaplain of the corps —currently Msgr. Giulio Viviani.

Santi Martino e Sebastiano degli Svizzeri

The Church of Saints Martin and Sebastian of the Swiss (Italian: Santi Martino e Sebastiano degli Svizzeri) is a Roman Catholic oratory in Vatican City. The church was built by Pope Pius V in 1568 to serve as private chapel for the Pontifical Swiss Guards, whose barracks are located next to Porta San Pellegrino, close to the Apostolic Palace. It is considered the national church of Switzerland in Rome.

The chapel is conveniently located on the path taken everyday by the Guards from their barracks to Portone di Bronzo. It is accessible for the guards, day and night. Baptisms and marriages of members of the Guard can also be celebrated with the permission of the priest of the parish of Saint Anne in Vatican.

Swiss Guards

Swiss Guards (French: Gardes Suisses; German: Schweizergarde) are the Swiss soldiers who have served as guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century.

Foreign military service was outlawed by the revised Swiss Federal Constitution of 1874, with the only exception being the Pontifical Swiss Guard (Latin: Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, Cohors Pedestris Helvetiorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis; Italian: Guardia Svizzera Pontificia) stationed in Vatican City. The modern Papal Swiss Guard serves as both a ceremonial unit and a bodyguard. Established in 1506, it is one of the oldest military units in the world. It is also the smallest army in the world.The earliest Swiss guard unit to be established on a permanent basis was the Hundred Swiss (Cent Suisses), which served at the French court from 1490 to 1817. This small force was complemented in 1567 by a Swiss Guards regiment. In the 18th and early 19th centuries several other Swiss Guard units existed for periods in various European courts.

In addition to small household and palace units, Swiss mercenary regiments have served as regular line troops in various armies; notably those of France, Spain and Naples (see Swiss mercenaries). They were considered the most effective mercenaries of the 15th century until the Landsknechte (German mercenary pikemen) outmatched the Swiss battle-drill. At the Battle of Marignano (1515), the Landsknechte in French service defeated the Swiss pikemen, ending their pre-eminence.

Teutonic Cemetery

The Teutonic Cemetery (Italian: Cimitero Teutonico) is a burial site adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

Located where the Circus of Nero once stood, during the period of the Roman Empire, it was the site of the martyrdom of many of the early Christians of the city.

During the Middle Ages, a school was built at the site, supposedly by the Emperor Charlemagne. In the 15th century, it became dedicated to the German-speaking residents of the city. On 6 May 1527, it was the site of the Stand of the Swiss Guard when the Pope's Swiss Guards held off mutinous German troops long enough for Pope Clement VII to escape over the Passetto di Borgo to Castel Sant'Angelo.

There are now two institutes of study and two chapels attached to the cemetery, one being the burial place of the Swiss Guards who fell in defense of the city against the forces of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1870.

Vatican City

Vatican City ( (listen)), officially Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano; Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae), is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Established with the Lateran Treaty (1929), it is distinct from, yet under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes). With an area of 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population.The Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state (a type of theocracy) ruled by the pope who is the bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. Since the return of the popes from Avignon in 1377, they have generally resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.

The Holy See dates back to early Christianity, and is the primate episcopal see of the Catholic Church, with 1.3 billion Catholics around the world distributed in the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches. The independent Vatican City-state, on the other hand, came into existence on 11 February 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy, which spoke of it as a new creation, not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756–1870), which had previously encompassed much of central Italy.

Within the Vatican City are religious and cultural sites such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and souvenirs, fees for admission to museums, and sales of publications.

Vatican and Holy See passports

The term "Vatican passport" can mean either a passport issued by the Holy See or one issued by Vatican City State. The state can issue normal passports for its citizens; the Holy See (see Legal status of the Holy See) issues personal, diplomatic and service passports.

Of the approximately 800 residents of Vatican City, over 450 have Vatican citizenship. These include the approximately 135-strong Swiss Guard. About the same number of citizens of the state live in various countries, chiefly in the diplomatic service of the Holy See.The Vatican City State law on citizenship, residence and access, which was promulgated on 22 February 2011, classifies citizens in three categories:

Cardinals resident in Vatican City or in Rome;

Diplomats of the Holy See;

Persons residing in Vatican City because of their office or service.Only for the third category is an actual grant of citizenship required.Diplomatic passports of the Holy See, not passports of the Vatican State, are held by those in the Holy See's diplomatic service.

Service passports of the Holy See can be issued to people in the service of the Holy See even if not citizens of Vatican City.

Vatican City passports are issued to citizens of the state who are not in the service of the Holy See.

Passports issued by Vatican City are in Italian, French and English, those issued by the Holy See are in Latin, French and English.

Diocese of Rome
of the Holy See
under protection
of the Holy See

(with distinctions)
Other distinctions
See also
Major basilicas
Papal names
See also


(Legal status)
of Rome

with universal
full communion
(Papal primacy)
See also
Bible and
Canon law
By country
religious orders,
of the faithful


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