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Old 22 August 2013, 09:54 AM
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Cyrano Cyrano is offline
Join Date: 01 September 2005
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 2,906

Some historical info from the Telegraph:

Guards are expected to be ready to lay down their lives in defence of the Pope and are supposed to be of impeccable moral and religious character.
They can be seen on guard outside the Vatican every day, dressed in striped blue, red and gold uniforms and carrying halberds as their traditional weapons.
They are also equipped with modern firearms – the same handguns and machine guns which are used by the Swiss army.
The idea that the uniform was designed by Michelangelo is a myth – it is simply a legacy of military uniforms that were common in Europe during the Renaissance.
The Swiss Guard’s most significant military engagement was in 1527 when 190 guards died fighting Holy Roman Empire troops during the Sack of Rome, allowing Clement VII to flee to safety from the Vatican through a stone passageway.The Swiss Guard’s role as the Pope’s armed force is complemented by the Vatican’s Corps of Gendarmes, which was established in 1816 by Pope Pius VII and whose recruits are Italian.

More on the sack of Rome, from Wikipedia:

The Habsburg army, composed of Imperial and Spanish troops, was placed under the command of the Constable of France, the Duc de Bourbon, fallen from grace in France and now serving the enemy. The constable's army, with a large contingent of Lutheran mercenaries, had become increasingly mutinous, and the Emperor was preoccupied with other matters, making him unable to pay them.[2]
As a result of his troops' attitudes, Bourbon decided to attack Rome, known to be filled with potential loot.[2] The city, considered to be the inviolable capital of Christendom,[2] was left almost defenseless, and, when the Pope anxiously ordered the citizens to take up arms, only 500 obeyed. Bourbon's troops quickly overwhelmed the defenders and began to plunder the ancient city. Near St. Peter's Basilica, the Swiss Guard, as the Pope's elite bodyguard unit, deployed. The captain, Kaspar Röist, intended to hold off the attackers long enough for Clement to escape across the Passetto di Borgo.
Joined by remnants of the Roman garrison, the Swiss made their stand in a cemetery well within the Vatican. Captain Röist was wounded and then killed by Spanish mercenaries, in full view of his wife.[3] The Swiss fought bitterly, but were heavily outnumbered and almost annihilated. Some survivors, accompanied by a band of refugees, retreated to the Basilica steps. Those who fled toward the Basilica were massacred, and just above forty survived. This group of forty, under the command of Hercules Goldli, managed to stave off the Habsburg troops pursuing the Pope's entourage as it made its way across the Passetto to the Castel Sant'Angelo.[3]
... after which the Pope decided that he and his successors would keep a Swiss Guard forever.

At the foundation of Modern Switzerland (Federal Constitution of 1848), Swiss mercenary service was banned, with the exception of the Pope's Guard.
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Old 23 August 2013, 06:45 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
Join Date: 04 November 2005
Location: Borlänge, Sweden
Posts: 11,580

Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
Would this guard have been wearing the famous colorful Swiss Guard uniform for a task like this? If I woke up one morning to find someone dressed like that right outside my door, I would be a bit disoriented about it.

Is it just me, or does the uniform resemble this mascot for the leading Swedish icecream manufacturer?
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