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5 facts you didn’t know about the Swiss Guard

Explore Switzerland // May 6, 2016

Every 6th of May the Swiss Guard, which protects the Pope in Vatican City, swear in their newest members. How much do you know about this elite, flamboyantly dressed Swiss regiment? We’ve done the research for you….

5 facts you didn’t know about the Swiss Guard
  1. The seemingly historic blue, red, and orange striped uniform is actually quite a recent creation. The baggy trouser and tunic look was only designed in 1914, although inspired by the original 16th century look.
  2. Founded in 1506, 2016 marks the 510th anniversary of service of the Pontifical Swiss Guard (or the Guardia Svizzera Pontifica) for the Pope. As the oldest standing army in the world, how do you think they’re celebrating?!
  3. Almost as famous as the guards are their terrifying `halberds`, fearsome seven foot long pole arms topped with a steel axe head and billhook. They can cause some serious damage!
  4. Make no mistake, The Guard has seen battle! In 1527 Emperor Charles V sent an army of 20,000 men to sack Rome and overthrow Pope Clement VII. The Guard held off a vastly superior force on the steps of St Peter's Basilica and allowed the pontiff to escape.
  5. Fancy joining up? You’ve got to fit the bill. Members today must:
  • Have basic Swiss Military training with good conduct
  • Have a professional degree or high school diploma
  • Be a Swiss Citizen
  • Male
  • Catholic
  • Between 19 and 30 years of age
  • Single
  • And at least 174cm (5ft 8in) tall

...Right, we’re out.

Bonus fact:don’t let the outfits fool you, the Swiss were actually considered the deadliest mercenaries of the 15th century!

Bonus bonus fact: the annual Papal bodyguard salary is only around 18,000 Francs - no one said this gig was for the love of money!

Perhaps the best part of it all though… they have a Facebook page, so you can check out more pics.

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