History of the Swiss Guard

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History of the Swiss Guards
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History of the Swiss Guard - THE  BORGIAS   wiki

The Swiss Guards are a small force responsible for the security of the Vatican City with various task including guarding the entrances to the Vatican as well as ensuring the personal safety of the Pope. Today being a Swiss guard at the Vatican city is largely a ceremonial role; However the history of the Swiss guards corps is a long one involving many real military campaigns.

History of Swiss Guards at Vatican City

The origins of the Swiss guards at the Vatican dates back nearly six hundred years.

History of the Swiss Guard - THE  BORGIAS   wikiPope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) formed a pact with the Swiss Confederation and constructed military barracks in Via Pellegrino after predicting that it would be useful to recruit Swiss mercenaries. The pact was renewed by Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) in order to use the Swiss guards against the Duke of Milan. It should be remembered that in those days Italy was not a unified country but rather a series of independent city states that often fought with each other. Pope Alexander VI (left) (1492-1503) used the Swiss mercenaries during their alliance with the King Louis II 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.

Swiss Guards Regiment Size

History of the Swiss Guard - THE  BORGIAS   wikiThe number of Swiss guards at the Vatican has varied over the decades and at one time was even been disbanded. The first real war experienced by the Swiss guards was in 1527 when 147 of the 189 Guards, including their commander, died fighting the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape through the Passetto di Borgo, escorted by the other 40 guards. The last stand battlefield is located on the left side of St Peter's Basilica and can still be seen today on a visit to the Vatican City.

The Swiss Guard has served the popes since the sixteenth century. The Swiss Guard used to share duties at guarding the Pope along with the Palatine Guard and Noble Guard, both of which were disbanded in 1970 under Pope Paul VI. Today the Swiss Guard are the only corps who carry out ceremonial roles of the former Vatican units, serving now as the army of the sovereign state of the Vatican. At the end of 2005, there were 134 members of the Swiss Guard. This included a Commandant a chaplain, three officers, one sergeant major 30 NCOs, and 99 privates or halberdiers as they are known.

Swiss Guard Eligibility

Swiss guards at the Vatican must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss military and can obtain certificates of good conduct. New recruits must have a professional diploma or high school degree and must be between 19 and 30 years of age and at least 174 cm tall. Qualified candidates must apply to serve. If accepted, new guards are sworn in every May 6 in the San Damaso Courtyard in the Vatican. The chaplain of the guard reads aloud the oath in the language of the guard (mostly German, some French, a little Italian).

The Oath

History of the Swiss Guard - THE  BORGIAS   wiki"I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff [name of Pontiff] and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the See is vacant. Furthermore I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors, respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!"

Then one by one the new recruits are called by name. Each one advances alone, and with his left hand he grasps the Guarĸs standard, holding high his right hand with three fingers open, as a symbol of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he confirms the oath:

"I, . . ., swear I will observe faithfully, loyally and honourably all that has now been read out to me! May God and his saints assist me!"

These saints included especially the Guard's Patrons, St. Martin (11 November), St. Sebastian (20 January), and St. Niklaus von Flüe, "Defensor Pacis et pater patriae" (25 September).

Facts and Triva of the Swiss Guards

The earliest detachment of the Swiss guard was the Swiss Hundred Guard (Cent-Garde) at the French court (1497-1830). This force was complimented by a Swiss Guard regiment in 1567. During these eras Switzerland was a poor country and many young men sought their fortunes abroad and joined the Guard.
There were two different corps of Swiss Guard in France performing guard duties for the Kings of France. The Hundred Swiss (Cent Suisses) and the Swiss Guards (Gardes suisses). The hundred Swiss was created during the reign of Louis XI of France. The hundred Swiss were armed with halbards along with gold hilted swords. The Cent Suisses were disbanded in October 1789 after Louis XVI left Versailles. The Hundred Swiss also went with Louis XVIII into exile in 1790.
History of the Swiss Guard - THE  BORGIAS   wikiOn 10 August 1792, during the French Revolution 900 Swiss Guards tried to defend the Tuileres Palace. 600 of these guards died during battle or were massacred during the 'September Massacres'. The Swiss Guard had run out of ammonition during the battle and were overwhelmed by superior numbers. The heroic but futile stand of the Swiss guard during this battle is commemorated by the Lion Monument in Lucerne. The Lion Monument shows a dying lion collapsed across broken symbols of the French monarchy. The inscription also lists the names of the 786 Swiss Guard who died during the September Massacres.
The French Restoration Monarchy made use of Swiss troops. Napoleon I employed 4 Swiss infantry regiments. They served Napoleon in Spain and in Russia. When the Tulieries was stormed again in the July Revolution in 1830 The Swiss regiments fearful of another massacre were withdrawn or melted into the crowds.
In 1831 disbanded Swiss gurardmen were recruited into the new French Foreign Legion for service in Algeria.
The Swiss Guard has served the Popes since the 1500's At the end of 2005 there were 134 members of the Swiss Guard serving the Pope.

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