Friday, October 12, 2012

Rome Sweet Home Part 4

Swiss Guard Barracks: An Inside Look at the Pad of the Pope's Bodyguards

Ok folks, time has been flying and the schedule around here has been brimming.  Since my last post, I've been on retreat for a week, celebrated diaconate ordinations at St. Peter's, been out of the country for a weekend, and (FINALLY) started theology classes at the Pontifical Gregorian University.  But that name is far too long and discommodius, inexpedient, unwieldy as it were.  So around here we just use the word 'Greg'.

Anyway, before any more time gets away from me, I want to finish off this last bit of fun from my return to Rome and my official welcome to the College.  I have so much else to write about in future posts already!  I gotta get crackin', in prudential manner of course.  I'd like to plan on not having a convo with the bishop about why I flunked out of grad school.

Well at this point, oh boy, my memory on some of these things is starting to get fuzzy.  I'm going to TRY keep this one shortER on words (I know, the Master of All Brevity is going to keep it short on words. Don't hold me to it.) and instead just throw some photos at you so that you can see what I did and I can feel better about communicating with the world *thumbs up!*.

So, briefly, the members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are legitimately the pope's official bodyguards.  We all know them, or would recognize them if we saw them, because like the British Royal Guard they wear Halloween costumes as their uniform.  If we were all in a Joann Fabric store, their in-cognito-ness in such a situation might be on par with the Navy Seals.  But do not be fooled, these dudes are actually guards, and they have strict entrance requirements and training regiments.

You don't qualify to be a member of the Swiss Guard unless you are Swiss, Catholic, between the ages of 19 and 30, graduated high school, completed basic training in the Swiss military, unmarried, and at least 1.74 meters tall (about 5'9"ish).

So why does the pope have a small army at his command?  Because way way back in the day (beginning of the 1500s), these guys were the most skilled mercenaries in Europe.  And due to the nature of warring empires at the time, the popes also needed help protecting papal property from the hands of invaders who wanted all the Church's cool stuff on five-finger-discount.

These men became so loyal to the pope that on the 6th of May, 1527, most of Pope Clement VII's guard was killed defending him from the invasion of then-current Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  He escaped through the Borgo Passage from St. Peter's to the fortified Castel San Angelo with a small Swiss remnant.  The pope's life was spared, and this day has since become known as the Stand of the Swiss Guard.

Alright, enough history my good people, without further ado, Ecco (that is, Behold!), the Swiss Guard barracks. Lots of guns and armor and cool manly stuff.

I don't remember what this is. It is an old flag.

Various uniforms of the Guard.

Custom fitted armor. Sweet.
The 'nice' armor. You know, for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Various helmets used throughout the years. The one on the left is from World War II. A Swiss soldier converted and gave up his helmet to become a member of the papal Guard.

Various swords, clubs, and hatchets. Personal protection at one time.

Weapons historically used by the Guard, including what appear to be small shoulder cannons.

More pointy objects.

These swords are almost as tall as I am.

Weapons on the very right are their current carry arms.

One of those windows is the pope's bedroom. I think the left window on the top.

The original Vatican vault.

The original spot of the St. Peter's Piazza obelisk, this spot is on the side of the current basilica. It was here where the Apostle Peter was martyred.

Walking up to Peter's place of martyrdom.

Part of the Borgo Passage. Clement VII ran right across the top of that wall toward Castel San Angelo.

I'm sorry I don't have better explanations for some of these pics. But hopefully you get an idea of the cool stuff they get to wear and can appreciate how much one might feel like a little boy again walking into this small armory.  I definitely enjoyed this small excursion.  One of the neatest things about it is that people don't get tours of the barracks, so almost no one besides Swiss Guard members themselves ever get a chance to see this stuff.  A few years back, the NAC made a pact with these beneficent defenders: they give the new men a tour once a year, and we give them free year-round access to our sports fields and equipment.  I'd say it is a good tradeoff.

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