Don’t mistake these colourful gentlemen for anything less than trained killers.
New recruits in the Pope’s personal guard recently swore in last week — an annual ritual — and added a batch of 35 warriors to their ranks.
As Swiss troops, trained in Switzerland, they have a firm grasp of modern combat, small arms, and counter terrorism. The Vatican outfit always numbers just more than 100.
They’re on a paid contract to the Papacy … one that’s lasted 500 years.
The Swiss Guard started around the mid 1400s, when a village in the heart of the Alps was impoverished and in need of work.
The cluster of villages got together 15,000 men, trained them, and put them on loan to anyone who needed warriors.
From the 14th on into the 19th centuries, Swiss Guards and mercenaries could be found in courts and castles all around Europe.
Their first major engagement for the Pope was in 1527, when 138 Swiss Guard fought to the last man defending the Pope against Romans.
Following centuries of relative Peace, an assassination attempt in the 80s prompted Guard authorities to implement more military training.
The guards themselves are required to go through a standard Swiss military bootcamp, then apply to this special duty.
New recruits have to learn basic Italian, Vatican close order marching drill, and various riot control measures.
They have to be Swiss citizens, have no criminal record, be single, and at least 5 foot 7 inches tall.
Their uniforms and arms are not just ceremonial, but working pieces of '15th century' armour and weaponry.
Uniform and armour design actually dates back to the early 1900s, but draws on paintings by Michelangelo and Rafaello for inspiration.
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