Special Forces of the Vatican Swiss Guard, soldiers protecting the Pope as head of the Vatican. Photo/Vatican News
JAKARTA – Every May 6th, the Special Forces of the Vatican Swiss Guard always hold a ceremony full of splendor. The ceremony was held in order to take the oath of a new member of the troop.
The swearing-in ceremony was held in the S Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. All the troops who will become new members of the special forces swear an oath and promise of loyalty to the Pope.
In addition, the ceremony is also a tradition to commemorate the tragedy that occurred on May 6, 1527, when 147 Swiss Guards died protecting Pope Clement VII from the soldiers of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Get to know the Swiss Guard Special Forces
The Swiss Papal Guard is one of the oldest military armies in the world. The Swiss Guard began serving the Papal States in the late 14th and 15th centuries.
During the middle ages, they were once Swiss mercenaries and were much sought after by foreign armies because of their ability and skill in using weapons proven on the battlefield.
Then in 1505, a Swiss bishop in the Vatican, Matthaus Scheiner, suggested that the troops be formed into a permanent Swiss Corps operating under the control of the Papal States.
On this suggestion, the Swiss Guard was officially founded by Pope Julius II in 1506. The first contingent of troops consisting of 150 soldiers arrived in Rome on January 22, 1506.
Those who join the army must fulfill the conditions set by the Pope. Some of them are men, Swiss citizens, Catholics, single, aged between 19-30 years and a minimum height of 174 cm.
Before enrolling, they must also undergo a series of military training and must first complete a diploma or high school.
But since the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, there has been a greater emphasis on and non-ceremonial role for troops. The training of troops has been increased in unarmed combat and counter-terrorism missions.
Apart from protecting the Pope, the soldiers will also perform ceremonial duties to provide security and assist with the duties and functions of the Vatican.
In their protection efforts, they would carry ancient spear guns and swords and usually wear a blue doublet and beret. In its development, the ancient model was then redesigned by Swiss Colonel Jules Repond in 1914.
Quoted from the wantedinrome page, the Vatican has also announced to rebuild the Swiss Guard residence with one room and private bathroom for members of the troops.
To augment his army, Pope Francis or a pope-to-be also has plans to allow women to join the Vatican’s Swiss Guard Special Forces.