the general

the general

Viaggio a Roma: The Swiss Guard

26m ago
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Back to Rome, I'm Father Reed, Ciao amici from the barracks of perhaps the best-dressed militia in the world. January 22nd, 1506, is the official date of birth of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, because on that day, towards the evening, a group of one hundred and fifty Swiss soldiers entered the Vatican for the first time and were blessed by Pope Julius II. Don't be fooled by their designer duds. Under those bright, baggy bloomers and a tilted beret stands a lean, mean fighting machine as well as a courteous helper of lost or curious tourists. A Swiss Guard stands at least 5 feet 8 inches tall, is an ironclad Catholic of "irreproachable" character, young and single, has clocked in at least 19 birthdays and usually no more than 30, and he is...Swiss. He also has completed rigorous entrance requirements and Swiss army training, making him a member of an elite guard who is ready at any moment to sacrifice his life for the Successor of Peter. Every day, two thirds of the staff are engaged in guarding the numerous entrances to the Apostolic Palace. They serve not only as a Guard of Honor but also keep order every time the Pope is in public...for liturgical celebrations in St. Peter's Basilica, at the General Audiences, and during visits to the Pope by Heads of States or Governments, Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors. The main weapon of the Swiss Guards is the halberd: a spear that sits on top of a long pole. The other distinctive feature is their uniform which dates back to the mid 16th century. The yellow, red, and blue stripes and helmet with a red plume are often attributed to Michelangelo...sorry...the guard tells me it's only a legend! The Swiss Guards answer many of the same questions day after day with poise and sometimes even a smile. It was an undercover Guard who helped shield Pope John Paul II during the assassination attempt against his life May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square. The papal Swiss Guard tradition has been marching on for nearly 500 years -- making it the oldest, continually active military corps in history. Today, numbering 110 men, the Swiss Guard may still be the world's smallest army...but they are also one of the coolest! From the barracks of the Pontifical Swiss Guard: Ciao amici. Ci vediamo presto!