Don’t let their colorful uniforms fool you.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard is an elite military force that has been defending the papacy for centuries. And while we often see them in their brightly colored “armor” during masses or while standing guard at the gates of the Vatican, these young men are in fact highly trained marksmen, who are also ready to take a bullet for the Pope.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard was officially founded on January 22, 1506 with a mission to defend the Pope and the Pontifical buildings. However, its roots go back a little further to 1503, when a group of 150 Swiss mercenaries entered the Vatican for the first time to serve Pope Julius II. They were to protect him against enemies and from the frequent political crimes that were rampant during the period when Europe was often torn apart by religious wars.
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Today, the Swiss Guard takes care of surveillance and the safety and protection of the Pope inside the Apostolic Palace and during his trips, besides being the honor guard during audiences, ceremonies, and receptions.
Did you know that there are a lot of elements that go into being a Swiss Guard? Here are some fascinating facts about the Pope’s private army: