"The Swiss Guard in the Vatican" Vatican City Things to Do Tip by GentleSpirit
Vatican City Things to Do: 800 reviews and 1,514 photos
The Swiss Guard (Corpo de la Guardia Swizzera) that today guards the Vatican originally was one of many Swiss mercenary units that served in various royal courts in Europe. Part of the reason for this was that in the middle ages there was apparently overpopulation and hence poverty in the Swiss cantons.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard, established in 1506, serves as the official bodyguard of the Pope. Apparently Italy provides the Vatican with more traditional military protection. Pope Julius II requested a constant corps of 200 mercenaries. Today the force numbers 135 but they are no longer mercenaries.
Their bright Renaissance inspired uniforms actually reflect the colors of the Della Rovere papacy (Julius II) and the red of the Medici (Leo)
You will see them guarding the entrances to the Vatican. During my visit to Rome they were especially visible since a major European Community meeting was taking place with visiting heads of state. It was all very ceremonial and colorful.
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