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Swiss mercenaries hired by the Pope.
NOTE: See also the files: mercenaries-msg, Italy-msg, popes-msg, rosaries-msg, relics-msg, saints-msg.
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From: ahide at jupiter.newcastle.edu.au (8636248)

Newsgroups: sci.military

Subject: Cohors Helvetica (Swiss Guards)

Summary: Data on Vatican Swiss Guards

Keywords: Vatican, mercenary

Date: 6 Aug 91 02:41:17 GMT

Organization: Uni of Newcastle, Australia
I mailed a brief, off-the-cuff, summary of the Swiss Guards to Mike

Richards, and got such an encouraging letter in reply that I thought I'd put

together a more definitive version for the net. (Hopefully with the moder-

ator's permission.)


The Swiss as mercenary troops first rose to prominence in 1494, as part

of the army of Charles VIII of France during the invasion of the Italian

peninsula. Their discipline, tactics, grim demeanour and habit of not granting

quarter in battle were something of a revelation to post-Renaissance Italy;

the effect was something like the onset of the Wehrmacht at the opening of

World War II. The French conquered the region with notable ease, and for the

next fifty years Swiss mercenaries could be found on most battlefields in

Italy. On the 22nd of January 1506, the warrior-Pope Julius II formed the

corps of Swiss Guard (or Cohors Helvetica, to give them their Latin title)

and used them as papal mercenaries against the French. Their primary weapons

were the halberd (a long pole-axe and spike) and the sword.

On the 6th of May 1527, the newly formed corps had its sternest test to

date. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (who was like most of the Holy Roman

Emperors neither Roman, nor particularly holy) had decided to oust the then

Pope, Clement VII, and replace him with a pontiff more in accord with Charles'

views. His army stormed the walls of Rome and the Vatican, and sacked both

cities, but Clement escaped by a passageway (which still exists today) leading

from the Vatican to the Castel Sant'Angelo. The Swiss Guard, then numbering

about eight hundred, died almost to a man buying the Pope time to get away.

In about 1548 the Guards adopted a new uniform, basically of striped

blue, red and yellow with a red-plumed helmet; this uniform remains essentially

unchanged to this day, although there is an undress blue uniform worn in less

public places.

Today, the Swiss Guard consists of some one hundred to one hundred and

twenty men; this includes four officers, five senior and eighteen junior NCOs.

All recruits must be Swiss citizens, unmarried, and at least 5' 8 1/2" tall;

they must also be good Catholics (with a letter from their local bishop to

prove it) and be between the ages of 19 and 25. After completing basic military

training at the recruiting school, the prospective Guardsman can apply for

membership in the Cohors Helvetica.

The investiture of new members of the Guard takes place every 6th of May,

the anniversary of their massacre in 1527, in the Cortile San Damaso. Flanked

by members of the papal household and the Secretariat of State, the recruit

grasps the standard with his left hand and raises the right with thumb and two

fingers outstretched, signifying the Holy Trinity. He then swears to serve

the reigning Pope and his rightful successors in true and upright manner,

risking, if necessary, life and limb to defend them. The training that follows

is rigorous and includes firearms, and unarmed combat, as well as the more

esoteric techniques of modern bodyguarding and public relations (they have a

ceremonial role to perform in addition to the practical). They also receive

15 days instruction in the use of the halberd (which I would guess to be very

useful for crowd control.)

Terms of service range from a minimum of 2 years up to perhaps 25, with

officers and senior sergeants permitted to marry. On guard, the primary weapons

remain the halberd and the sword; however, firearms (typically Beretta Model

12 submachineguns), tear gas, and anti-personnel grenades are usually close

to hand for more 20th century threats. Heavier weapons are kept in the Guard's

modest barracks and arsenal by St Anne's Gate, near the Sistine Chapel. Off

duty, Guardsmen are permitted to come and go as they please, with the proviso

of modest discretion; their social lives are said to be quite active, as the

young ladies of Rome consider them quite a catch.

With nearly five hundred years of service, the Swiss Guards are one of

the longest-serving regiments in the Western world. The tradition seems

unlikely to be broken as long as Switzerland and the Catholic Church endure.


Hope that that answers some questions and provides some interest.
References:

'Uniforms of the Soldiers of Fortune'

- Leroy THOMPSON and Ken MacSWAN

'The New Mercenaries'

- Anthony MOCKLER

'Inside the Vatican'

- Joseph Coughlan
Andrew Hide

Computer Science Honours

University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

From mvoneuw at isd.net Sat Mar 8 21:49:51 1997

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Date: Sat, 8 Mar 1997 09:15:41 -0600

From: "Martin E. von Euw"

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards - help required


The Swiss were known as mercenaries throughout most of their early history.

Since Switzerland was an extremely poor country, many of their men went

off and fought for other countries from the 14th-16th centuries.

Switzerland took action to become natural because in many cases brother

fought brother on different sides.
If you refer back to the 14-16th centuries, the Swiss were known as the

most feared soldiers. They mastered the wedge with their pikes and were

always victories even when out numbered (until their wedge and pikes became

obsolete in modern day warfare). The problem the Swiss experienced was

that they did not change with the times - still evident today :-). They

felt that they had been successful with their battle strategy, but time

changed this and the Swiss soon succumbed.
Regarding the Swiss guard, the French King maintained a Swiss personal

guard as his elite bodyguards. When the French hierarchy was overthrown in

1789 the Swiss fought (were slaughtered due to being out numbered) to the

last man. Napoleon stated after viewing the slain troops that he never saw

such a slaughter, but admired the honor in which the Swiss fought to the

death defending the King even when given the opportunity to surrender.


The Pope still maintains a Swiss guard and I have heard that the men who

provide this service are considered the elite. I think their presence is

more for an image rather than protection in our day. If you view them at

the Vatican, they still wear the traditional uniform and carry the pike as

a symbol of their defense.
Best regards,

Martin


From: Andrew Tye

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 00:19:07 -0800

Organization: Oregon Public Networking
On Sun, 9 Mar 1997, > Morgoth < wrote:
> The Pope still maintains a Swiss guard and I have heard that the men who

> provide this service are considered the elite. I think their presence is

> more for an image rather than protection in our day. If you view them at

> the Vatican, they still wear the traditional uniform and carry the pike as

> a symbol of their defense.

>


> Best regards,

> Martin
Ivar here,


A few years back, National Geographic did its cover story on the Swiss

Guard at the Vatican. Quite interesting. There were two photographs

however, that spoke to one's sense of anachronism. One was of a classic

situation. An NCO chewing out a formation of new recruits. Only here the

recruits were wearing modern military raincoats and carrying halberds.
The other photograph was of an officer of the Swiss Guard wearing a

Spanish-type morion helmet and the multi-coloured renaissance uniform

designed by Michaelangelo. He was talking into a hand-held radio and had

a submachine gun slung under his arm...


Ivar Hakonarson

Adiantum, An Tir.

From: greycat at tribeca.ios.com (Greycat Sharpclaw)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 03:26:37 GMT

Organization: IDT
>The Pope still maintains a Swiss guard and I have heard that the men who

>provide this service are considered the elite. I think their presence is

>more for an image rather than protection in our day. If you view them at

>the Vatican, they still wear the traditional uniform and carry the pike as

>a symbol of their defense.
There are cerimonial displays of the Swiss guard at the Vatican.

There are also Swiss guards around the pope with modern communications

and combat equipment, in very uncerimonial business suits. These

guards function much as the (US) secret service presidential guards,

and are quite well trained.
I am not sure if they are the same unit, with troop transfering back

and forth; or if the cerimonial and functional guards are seperate.

But the Swiss guard is *still* the real protective force of the pope.
Lord Emrys Cador David M. Mann

Barony of Settmour Swamp greycat at tribeca.ios.com

Eastrealm

From: yeshua at cia.com.au (Tasmanian Devil)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 00:13:48 GMT
On Tue, 11 Mar 1997 03:26:37 GMT, greycat at tribeca.ios.com

(Greycat Sharpclaw) wrote:


>I am not sure if they are the same unit, with troop transfering back

>and forth; or if the cerimonial and functional guards are seperate.

>But the Swiss guard is *still* the real protective force of the pope.
I understand that the two roles are interchangable and that

the guys in the parti-coloured uniforms can also field strip

automatic weapons in the dark and kill with their bare

hands. I am also under the impression that the guards are

actually lay members of a semi-monastic order. Does anyone

have any details?


Cheers,

-------------------------------------------------------------

Tim O'Neill 'Quid est Veritas?'

Tasmanian Devil Pontius Pilatus

yeshua at cia.com.au circa 33 AD

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: shafer at spdcc.com (Mary Shafer)

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Organization: S.P. Dyer Computer Consulting, Cambridge MA

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 20:58:45 GMT


Tasmanian Devil wrote:
>I understand that the two roles are interchangable and that

>the guys in the parti-coloured uniforms can also field strip

>automatic weapons in the dark and kill with their bare

>hands.
The same is true of the various Guards regiments in the UK. They may

be marching around in fancy bearskin hats for the tourists to

photograph, but those are modern weapons that they carry and they've

got all sorts of neat stuff like MBTs, APCs, and heavy weapons back at

the barracks. And they all know how to use all of it.


The same is true of the Greek evzones guarding the eternal flame, etc.

Those flouncy white skirts, white tights, and fluffy red pompoms are

accesorized with M-16s (or they were in 1974--they've no doubt gone on

to something more modern by now) rather than flintlocks or jaziels.

The uniform may be traditional, but the weapons aren't.
However, I have formed the impression that the regiments (Prebiosky

Guards? I just can't remember) that guard the Kremlin, etc, were not

professional soldiers, even though they are well equipped. Rather,

they are more like the sort of facility security that places like

non-military government agencies (NASA, for example) have. Not

soldiers, but armed guards to protect the premises.


> I am also under the impression that the guards are

>actually lay members of a semi-monastic order. Does anyone

>have any details?
I too have the feeling that there is more required than just the usual

Swiss military stuff, in part because the Swiss military per se is not

allowed to be used as mercenaries as the result of some treaty. I

believe that I read this in "La Place de la Concorde Suisse" by John

McPhee. Apparently the Swiss army used to be hired out all over

Europe and earned a reputation for being ruthless, particularly about

being paid, and not easily suborned. Somewhere along the line there

was enough objection to this that the Swiss agreed to stop renting out

their troops. However, the Vatican was an exception, probably

cleverly managed to adhere to the words and still provide the guards.

--

Mary Shafer DoD #0362 KotFR shafer at ursa-major.spdcc.com



URL http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/People/Shafer/mary.html

From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Date: 11 Mar 1997 21:29:19 GMT

Organization: University of California at Berkeley


> I am also under the impression that the guards are

>actually lay members of a semi-monastic order. Does anyone

>have any details?
I have an article on them somewhere about the house, published in

some kind of Catholic magazine for the not very sophisticated.

If I recall correctly, they must be Swiss citizens, practising

Catholics, and unmarried (at least while they are enlisted men;

I can't recall if they have married officers). That's about it,

except they take an oath to protect the Pope with their lives.

And they've had the opportunity to do it a time or two. Most do

a several-years' tour of duty; some make a career of it.


Dorothea of Caer-Myrddin Dorothy J. Heydt

Mists/Mists/West Albany, California

PRO DEO ET REGE djheydt at uclink

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: shafer at spdcc.com (Mary Shafer)

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Organization: S.P. Dyer Computer Consulting, Cambridge MA

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 18:22:50 GMT


Just a little follow-up on Swiss mercenaries. According to John

McPhee in "La Place de la Concorde Suisse", the Confederation was not

neutral until a serious defeat in 1515 (by the French, perhaps--I left

the book at home). At that time, it renounced, both for itself and

for the individual cantons, wars of aggression. The Confederation

also discontinued renting out troops as mercenaries. (The other

concepts of neutrality were accreted as time went by.) Until 1515,

the Confederation troops were regarded as some of the best and most

aggressive troops in Europe. There is an example where a few hundred

Swiss soldiers, hopelessly outnumbered, suicidally charged the French

army, killing about two thousand French troops. This was so unnerving

to the French that they packed up and left.


However, the cantons continued to rent out their troops as

mercenaries. Gradually the practice died out, with the Vatican guards

being the only vestige remaining.
One last comment: being neutral does not mean being undefended. The

Swiss Army is regarded as being one of the best armed, best trained,

and best prepared forces in the world. The Israeli army, for example,

is modeled after it. The Swiss visualize their military response to

invasion as being like a procupine, with the soft underbelly protected

in all directions by very sharp quills.

--

Mary Shafer DoD #0362 KotFR shafer at ursa-major.spdcc.com



URL http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/People/Shafer/mary.html

From: buckley at refuge.Colorado.EDU (Charles Buckley)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swiss Guards

Date: 12 Mar 1997 22:14:37 GMT

Organization: University of Colorado at Boulder


In article , Mary Shafer wrote:
>One last comment: being neutral does not mean being undefended. The

>Swiss Army is regarded as being one of the best armed, best trained,

>and best prepared forces in the world. The Israeli army, for example,

>is modeled after it. The Swiss visualize their military response to

>invasion as being like a procupine, with the soft underbelly protected

>in all directions by very sharp quills.


The use of Swiss mercenaries was specifically banned in the Vienna

Convention of 1815 (I think. It was the Treaties drawn up after Napolean's

defeat. They also banned Letters of Marqui and other long time acts of

war that was being phased out over time and were no longer useful in an

age of national armies).
An out of period story:
In 1938, the German Ambassador to Switzerland was at a ball that was

also attended by the commander of the Swiss army. The German Ambassador

knew that the Swiss army at that time was about 250,000 men. (Roughly.

In actuality it is a much higher number). In any case, he asked the Swiss

general what the Swiss general would do if Germany invaded Switzerland

with a 250,000 man army. The Swiss general did not hesitate. "I would issue

each of my men 1 bullet". The German Ambassador then asked what the Swiss would

do if the Germans invaded with 500,000 men. The Swiss general instantly

replied "I would issue each of my men 2 bullets".

From: "Martin E. von Euw"

To: ,...

Subject: Re: Help...

Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 21:32:56 -0500
>I want to know if the international bodyguards that protect the Pope are

>part of the Swiss Guard. Anyway: can any world citizen apply for being

>his bodyguard? I mean, the real, "bad" ones, not the fancy dressed (or

>are they the same thing?)

>

>Alcibiades Malapi



>Philosophy Major
The Vatican guard is made up of Swiss citizens. The guards were originally

recruited from the three cantons of the Swiss confederacy, but now consist

of citizens from all the Swiss cantons. These guards may carry the halberd

and sword (the traditional weapons of medieval times), but have military and

firearm training. To be considered a guard you must be a Swiss citizen,

unmarried, Catholic and meet the required physical restrictions (age, weight

and height) .
Note: The fancy costumes you referenced were designed by Michelangelo.
Martin

Subject: The Cohors Helvetica......The Swiss Guard

Date: Sun, 28 Jun 98 17:16:28 MST

From: Chris Ashton

To: "Mark.S Harris (rsve60)"
While most of the credit for the creation of the 'Cohors Helvetica'

(Corps of Swiss Guards) is given to Pope Julius II (1503-1513), the

Holy See had made use of Swiss soldiers on many occasions prior. The

Swiss had a reputation as fierce warriers, and most of the crowned

heads of Europe maintained regiments of Swiss fighters.
In 1512, Julius gave the Swiss Guard the title of 'Defensores

Ecclesiae Libertatis' (Defenders of the Freedom of the Church). In May

1527, the Guard had to prove themselves as the Church's defenders, and

protect the life of Clement VII. 147 Swiss Guards died fighting the

invading German and Spanish armies of Charles V.
On 6 May each year, the Guard remember the masacre, with the swearing

in of new guards. At the ceremony, the Pope is represented by a

cardinal-deacon. It opens with the papal anthem, and the swiss

national anthem, and the unfurling of the papal flag, and the Swiss

Guard banner (which incorporates the arms of Julius II, the arms of

the reigning pope, the colours of the corps, and the arms of the

present commandant. New guards, wearing full armour, march up and

grasp the banner in their left hand, and raise their right hand with

thumb and the first two fingers extended (symbolizing the Holy

Trinity). The Chaplain of the Guard then administers the oath of

allegiance in German. The new guard then responds, and seeks the

protection of God, in his own native languarge.


Since 1803, citizens of all Swiss cantons may enter the Guard (entry

used to be restricted to those from the German-Swiss cantons). Under

current Swiss regualtion, recruitment must be done informally.

Recruits must be Episcopally Confirmed Roman Catholics, male, between

19 and 30 in age, bachelors, and taller than 5'9". They must also have

references from their local bishop and priest, and from former Guard

members, now returned to Switzerland. National service is compulsary

in Switzerland, but the government will release anyone accepted for

service in the Swiss Guard.
The main purpose of the Swiss Guard is still the physical protection

of The Pope, and since the assasination attempt on Pope John Paul II,

the focus of Guard training has shifted to include all aspects of

security and protection. While Guardsmen may look very smart in their

colourful uniforms, each is highly trained in karate, judo, and the

use of their ceremonial halberds. Under each of those striped tunics

hides a semi-automatic pistol, and/or a sub-machine gun.
The Popes body guards are drawn from the Swiss Guard, and travel with

the Pope on every visit (albiet in smart suits, ties, and dark glasses

- often talking into shirt cuff microphones!).
The Guard's uniform is striped in the colours of the Medici family -

red, blue, yellow - which gave the Church a number of renaissance

popes. Although legend states that the uniform was designed by

Michaelangelo, he in fact played no part in its design at all! Raphael

played an indirect role in brightening up the uniform, but it arrived

from Switzerland in a design very similar to that which we know today.


There are 119 seperate peice to a guard's uniform, and each is made in

the Guard's own tailor shop in the Sant'Anna Gate barracks, Vatican

City. They may be kept by guardsmen and officers serving two or more

terms.
From: mikes at cs.indiana.edu (Michael Squires)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca,alt.religion.christian.roman-catholic,talk.politics.misc,soc.culture.swiss

Subject: Re: 'Swiss Guards' - are they just ancient decorations?

Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 02:05:39 +0000 (UTC)

Organization: Computer Science, Indiana University


Dorothy J Heydt wrote:

>GHT wrote:

>>Are these the guys that actually protect the pope? With primitive

>>medieval weaponry and 15th century uniforms? (Interesting that when

>>you're looking them you're looking right at the 15th century)
I've seen the guards at work - an idiot tourist started through a door

guarded by the Switzers leading from the from the interior (nave?) of

St Peter's into some private area, and he stopped short when the two

Switzers clashed the heads of their halberds about four feet in front of the

tourist's nose. The tourist recoiled back (a reasonable response). The

noise was quite loud, got everybody's attention.


I'm quite sure that behind the two men in their ca 1500 century clothing, with

their ca 1500 century weapons, there was modern support.


I didn't know much about the use of two-handed weapons at the time, but it

was obvious that the Switzers knew what they were doing.


This was in spring, 1968.
Alan Culross

--


Mike Squires (mikes at cs.indiana.edu) 317 233 9456 (w) 812 333 6564 (h)

mikes at siralan.org 546 N Park Ridge Rd., Bloomington, IN 47408

Date: Tue, 05 Apr 2005 19:19:43 -0500

From: "David J. Hughes"

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: 'Swiss Guards' - are they just ancient decorations?


GHT wrote:

> Are these the guys that actually protect the pope? With primitive

> medieval weaponry and 15th century uniforms? (Interesting that when

> you're looking them you're looking right at the 15th century)


Quoting from The Banner of the Papal Swiss Guard by Walter Angst in The

Flag Bulletin, 187, May-June 1999


"only unmarried Swiss males of the Catholic faith - historically, mainly

from the four original Swiss cantons (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Luzern)

and Valais - are eligible for service. Moreover, they must all be

between 19 and 30 years of age, at least 174 cm tall and must have

fulfilled their basic military training in the Swiss Army. They are

privately contracted for this special Foreign Service for at least two

years. No official is openly involved in the process, but usually the

discreet services of some parish priests are used. Guard duty includes

the bodyguard for the pontiff, the watch at the entrances to the city,

the ceremonial honor guard, security at many religious and diplomatic

functions, as well as information, surveillance, and similar service.

The commander of the Swiss Guard is always a colonel. He belongs to the

"pontifical family," holding the rank of a "Chamberlain of His

Holiness." The pope alone appoints the commander. At present, the

colonel commands a lieutenant colonel, a guard chaplain, a major, a

captain, a master sergeant, four sergeants, 10 corporals, 10

vice-corporals, and 70 halberdiers. This makes up the Guard of 100 men,

although in 1971 this force had dwindled to only 40 members. By law the

Guard can be composed of at most 100 volunteers; hence it is called

Hundertschweizer - (one hundred Swiss.)

"Unlike the regiments of the former military Foreigh Service (which

remained at times under the laws of the Swiss Confederation), the Swiss

Guard is under the pope who, through the secretary of state of the

Vatican, exercises far-reaching jurisdiction over his 100 Swiss. The

Guards must live inside the walled city of the Vatican and they are

considered citizens of the Vatican State during their years of active

service. Since the Second Vatican Council, their famed steel

breast-armor is normally worn only on one special ceremonial occasion -

the yearly swearing-in ceremony of new Guards, which takes place on 6 May."
The Papal Swiss Guard was founded in 1506. It is today largely

ceremonial, but like the Guards in London they are a fully operational

modern military force. When in ceremonial 16th century uniform, they

keep their firearms in guard boxes nearby. The Papal Guard are the only

mercenary unit permitted under Swiss law since 1859, and are the last of

a long tradition of a million mercenaries in the world's armies. The

Guard today consists of 5 officers, 25 NCOs and 70 halberdiers.
.......annual swearing in of recruits on 6 May (and the Guard's

principal ceremonial event). This is the anniversary of the 1527 sack of

Rome when the 200-strong Guard defended Pope Clement VII against a

Spanish-German army of 22,000. 147 were killed (including the Captain

Kaspar Roist of Zurich), and the survivors took the Pope to Castel San

Angelo where they held out for a month before negiotiating a surrender.

Ironically Zurich was in the throws of the Reformation and had recalled

the Captain and his fellow Zurichers. They decided to wait until the

storm blew over, and paid for it with their lives.

From: "Sumbuny"

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca,alt.religion.christian.roman-catholic,talk.politics.misc,soc.culture.swiss

Subject: Re: 'Swiss Guards' - are they just ancient decorations?

Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2005 15:40:32 -0500
"Bill Bonde ('by a commodius vicus of recirculation')"

> Swiss mercenaries made their reputations in the Middle Ages with, for

> example, several thousand being trapped and outnumbered, I don't know,

> something like ten to one, yet they insisted on fighting to the death to

> the very last man. It's sort of a Samurai type thing.
Here is their story, from the Vatican Site:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/index.htm


History:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/swissguard/storia_en.htm


Admission requirements:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/swissguard/ammissione_en.htm


Buny

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