The Swiss Guard

The Swiss Guard

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2. Siege of Szigetvar: Ottoman Sultan’s Vienna Campaign Goes up in Smoke

This image shows the troop disparity between the Ottomans and the Croatian defenders.

In the mid-1500’s Europe was still filled with fear of Ottoman domination. Suleiman the Magnificent had had a long and largely successful career leading the Ottoman expansion on land and sea. Just into his 70’s, Suleiman went on one more campaign to take Vienna.

Before he got to Vienna, Suleiman became sidetracked by Count Zrinski and his fortress at Szigetvar. Zrinski had had a lot of recent success in border fights and was a veteran of the decades of fighting. Zrinski faced a force of about 150,000 Ottomans who were assembled to take Vienna. Suleiman expected to quickly crush Zrinski and his 3,000 defenders at the modestly-sized fortress.

As the Ottoman advance guard arrived at the fortress, a quick sortie by Zrinski inflicted devastating casualties before the main siege was even begun. The next week, Suleiman ordered a full assault. Tens of thousands of Turkish forces stormed the walls, but the well-run defense repulsed every attack.

After a month of combat that saw the secret death of Suleiman by natural causes, the Ottoman commanders were ready for one last assault. The walls were all but destroyed by constant bombardment and undermining, so Zrinski knew that another successful defense wasn’t going to happen.

Rather than wait for death, Zrinski lit a slow burning fuse that led to the massive stockpile of powder under the fortress. He then led the small force he had left and charged out to a glorious death in battle. As the Ottomans flooded the fortress to gather up all the loot they could, the massive bomb exploded, killing another 3,000 men on top of the 20-30,000 men killed from fighting or disease. The hard siege combined with the death of Suleiman made the Ottoman army turn back before reaching Vienna, again keeping Ottoman influence from creeping into the rest of Europe.

Swiss Guard Weapons

The Swiss Guard carry both traditional and modern weapons. The modern weapons became even more important when John Paul II came under attack in an assassination attempt. Since then, Sig Sauer P220s have become the weapon of choice for the Swiss Guard. That fits pretty well – the Sig Sauer is used by the Swiss Army too.

There are lots of other guns in the armour too, including the Hispano Suiza MP43. Submachine guns are carried undercover by the plain clothes Swiss Guard officers that are closest to the Pope.

More traditional weapons are largely for show, ceremony and to keep the tourists entertained. The sword carried by the general ranks of the Swiss Guard is pretty standard, although officers carry interesting rapiers.

This purple medal proved everyone could be a patriot

Posted On January 28, 2019 18:44:03

Considered to be the first military award of the United States Armed Forces, the Badge of Military Merit is the official predecessor to the highly-respected, yet rarely-coveted Purple Heart.

In 1782, General George Washington created two badges of distinction for American troops. One was a chevron that would be worn on the left sleeve for completing three years of duty “with bravery, fidelity, and good conduct.” The other was a “figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding” and was awarded for “any singularly meritorious action.” Washington’s goal was honor all ranks, high and low, for their gallantry and service to the country.

(Image via Society of Cincinnati)

This was a huge departure from the standards of European warfare. In England, specifically, only high-ranking officers would be decorated with pomp and circumstance — not for individual achievement, but for the hard-fought victories of their men.

“The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all,” wrote General George Washington on the creation of the Badge of Military Merit.

Bear in mind, the Badge of Military Merit was awarded for “not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way” and not for being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States. The badge was awarded by Gen. Washington himself to Sergeant Elijah Churchill and Sergeant William Brown on May 3rd, 1783. A month later, he awarded the third and final badge to Sergeant Daniel Bissell Jr.

The award was never issued again, despite never being officially abolished. The award was the basis for the short-lived Army Wound Ribbon and the golden Wound Chevron. In 1932, the Purple Heart Medal was officially introduced and the Wound Chevron was no longer awarded. Regulations discouraged the simultaneous wear of a WWI Wound Chevron and a WWII Purple Heart, but many troops who were wounded in both did it anyway.

Besides, no one will tell a 1st Sgt. who was wounded in both World Wars that he shouldn’t. (Image via U.S. Militaria Forum)


‘I’ve been disgusted by what I’ve seen’: Confessions of a Swiss Guard

Nathanael swore to protect the Pope with his life — but quickly discovered that inside the Vatican, he was the one who needed protection.

We take a look back at Cardinal George Pell’s history of denial in relation to sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

We take a look back at Cardinal George Pell’s history of denial in relation to sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy Source:Supplied

French writer Frederic Martel spent four years meticulously researching In the Closet of the Vatican, a revealing and detailed account of corruption and hypocrisy at the heart of the Vatican. In this edited extract, he explores the deeply secretive life of the Swiss Guards who protect Catholicism’s holiest men.

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy Source:Supplied

Frederic Martel, author of 'In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy' Source:Supplied

Swiss Guard Nathanaël encountered two problems at the Vatican: girls and homosexuals. The scarcity of the former and the omnipresence of the latter.

I met Nathanaël by chance, when I was staying at the Vatican. I was a bit lost in the maze of stairs and he showed me the way. He wasn’t shy we fell into conversation.

At first I thought that Nathanaël was one of the contractual staff who intervened within the Vatican if things went wrong. The blue overalls that he wore that day made him look like an ordinary Italian worker. So I was surprised to see him a few days later in the red, yellow and blue ‘gala’ uniform: he was a Swiss Guard! A Swiss Guard with a toolbox!

I contacted Nathanaël again some time later, on another stay in Rome, and then I encountered his polite but firm refusal to see me again. I would later learn that this was one of the rules imposed on the Swiss Guard. For reasons I shall not go into here, he did agree to talk to me in the end, and we developed the habit of meeting at the Café Makasar, in the Borgo, only a few minutes’ walk from the barracks of the Swiss Guard, but far from the places frequented by either Monsignori or tourists and hence discreet in a way that suited both of us.

Tall, with a long face, charming, Nathanaël was clearly very sociable. At our initial meeting, he told me his first name (altered here) and his telephone number his surname was revealed to me only subsequently, and inadvertently, when I entered his details on my smartphone and his mobile number was automatically ‘matched’ with his Google + account.

However, Nathanaël isn’t on Instagram or Facebook, and there is no photograph of him on Google Images, according to a strict Vatican rule that imposes extreme discretion on the Swiss Guard.

“No selfies, no profiles on social media,” Nathanaël confirms to me.

Girls and homosexuals, as stated, are the two problems that the Swiss Guard faces at the Holy See. Since taking the job, he has managed to sleep “with 10 girls”, he tells me, but the obligation of celibacy is a nuisance.

“We have to be at the barracks before midnight and we can never stay out. We are forbidden to be in a couple, since marriage is only authorised for senior officers, and it is strictly forbidden to bring girls back to the barracks. We are discouraged from meeting them in town, and denunciation is sometimes encouraged.”

These prudish obsessions of the old bogeymen at the Vatican bother Nathanaël, who considers that the essential questions, involving the sovereign missions of the Guard, are not taken into account — questions concerning the security of the pope, which in his view leaves much to be desired.

I tell him that I have frequently returned to the Vatican via the gate called Arco delle Campare — the most magical of all, beneath the clock to the left of St Peter’s in Rome — without having to show any kind of ID, and without my bag being searched, because a cardinal or an ordinary priest living inside had come out to fetch me.

I showed him a key I had which allowed me to enter the Vatican, without any inspection, when I returned to the apartment in which I was staying. The Swiss Guard was troubled by my experiences.

During about a dozen secret meetings at the Café Makasar, he revealed to me what really troubled him in the Vatican: the sustained and sometimes aggressive advances of certain cardinals.

“If just one of them touches me, I’ll smash his face in and resign,” he tells me in explicit terms.

Nathanaël isn’t gay, or even gay-friendly: he tells me of his revulsion at several cardinals and bishops who tried it on with him (and gives me their names). He was traumatised by what he had discovered in the Vatican in terms of double lives, sexual advances and even harassment.

“I’ve been disgusted by what I’ve seen. I still haven’t got over it. And to think that I took a vow to ‘sacrifice my life’ if necessary, for the pope!”

In the course of my investigation, I interviewed 11 Swiss Guards. Apart from Nathanaël, whom I saw regularly in Rome, most of my contacts were made on the military pilgrimage to Lourdes or, in Switzerland, with former guardsmen whom I was able to meet during more than 30 stays in Zurich, Basel, St Gallen, Lucerne, Geneva and Lausanne. They have been reliable sources for this book, informing me about the morals of the Curia and the double lives of many cardinals who have, matter-of factly, flirted with them.

Like Nathanaël, Swiss Guard Alexis had passes made at him by dozens of cardinals and bishops, to the point that he thought of resigning from the Guard.

“The harassment is so insistent that I said to myself that I was going straight home. Many of us are exasperated by the usually rather indiscreet advances of the cardinals and bishops.”

Alexis tells me that one of his colleagues was regularly called in the middle of the night by a cardinal who said he needed him in his room.

Other similar incidents were revealed by the press: from the inconsequential gift left on the bed of a Swiss Guard, along with a visiting card, to more advanced passes that could be called harassment or sexual aggression.

“It took me a long time to realise that we were surrounded, at the Vatican, by frustrated men who see the Swiss Guard as fresh meat. They impose celibacy on us and refuse to let us marry because they want to keep us for themselves, it’s as simple as that. They are so misogynistic, so perverse! They would like us to be like them: secret homosexuals!”

Nathanaël, when his service is over and his ‘liberation’ completed, never expects to set foot in the Vatican again, 𠇎xcept on holiday with my wife”.

Another Swiss Guard, interviewed in Basel, confirms to me that the homosexuality of the cardinals and prelates is one of the most frequently discussed subjects in the barracks, and the stories they hear from their comrades further amplify the experiences they have had themselves.

Speaking with Alexis, as with Nathanaël and the other Swiss Guards, we mention precise names, and the list of cardinals and bishops who have made passes at them is confirmed, proving to be as long as Cardinal Burke’s cappa magna.

Even though I know about the issue, these statements still surprise me: The number of the elect is even larger than I thought.

Why did they agree to talk to me so freely, to the extent that they are surprised by their own daring? Not out of jealousy or vanity, like some cardinals and bishops not to help the cause, like most of my gay contacts within the Vatican. But out of disappointment, like men who have lost their illusions.

This is an edited extract from In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by Frederic Martel (Bloomsbury $34.99). Out now.

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Switzerland and the Swiss Guards

Originally named Helvetia, this is a landlocked democratic European republic, with boundaries to the east with Liechtenstein and Austria, to the south with Italy the west by France and finally to the north with Germany. The official name now is the Swiss Federation.

In the tenth century Switzerland was a small part of the Holy Roman Empire (q.v.) but the Swiss Confederation was established in 1291, when the ‘cantons’ or regions of Uri, Schyz and Unterwalden formed a mutual league for defence. There was a brief period of Austrian domination, producing among other things the ‘William Tell Incident’ in which a Swiss archer of note was supposed to have shot an arrow through an apple balanced (how?) on his son’s head and followed this remarkable feat by putting a second arrow through an Austrian official’s heart. The stuff of dreams, perhaps, but the Swiss believe it.

A statue commemorates William Tell and his brave son /

The Confederation stretched its limbs a little in the fourteenth century and became the centre of the Reformation in the sixteenth. Above all Swiss neutrality and independence were recognised by all under the Treaty of Westphalia (now in Germany) in 1648.

Napoleon Bonaparte, a great map-changer, spoiled this by invading Switzerland, conquering it as usual by force of arms and death. It was the Corsican who changed the name to the Helvetian Republic in 1798 when he was just twenty-nine years old.

After the rest of Europe had finally dealt with Napoleon in 1815, the country was divided into a federation of 22 cantons, and the Confederation adopted a constitution in 1848. Switzerland remained neutral in both World Wars, but unlike Portugal, Spain or Sweden, also neutral, was not a seething nest of spies working for the Allies or the Axis, or both.

There are some bright and beautiful things about this beautiful but rather dour country. In the first place the Swiss elect a new President every year secondly, few governmental decisions are made without making national referenda thirdly, national service is maintained in order to keep a small but efficient defence force, and all males attend refresher courses by obligation until their sixties fourthly, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but is a member of the United Nations.

The Swiss speak four official languages – French, German, Italian and Schweizer, and manage not to make a fuss about it as they interminably do in Catalonia. The three principal cities are Zurich (mostly German-speaking), Basle and Berne. Other important centres are Geneva, home of international Courts, Lausanne and Lucerne.

The Swiss Guardsare the Papal police corps instituted by Pope Julius II, and recruited from Swiss mercenaries (one Switzerland’s best-known industries). Their reputation for hard fighting in the infantry was established after their smashing of the Burgundian cavalry in 1476. A point of interest is that their attractive and unique uniform was designed by Michelangelo – no less. Clad in less eye-catching civilian clothes, they still surround the Pope as his very highly trained bodyguard while he is in the Vatican.

Swiss Guards of Louis XVI were massacred at the Tuileries on 10 August 1792.

Swiss regiments had historically fought as mercenaries in the armies of other nations, including that of France, long before the French Revolution. During the Revolution, the Swiss Guards of Louis XVI were massacred at the Tuileries on 10 August 1792. Eventually the Swiss took the side of the Revolution, forming the Helvetic Republic. Napoleon negotiated a convention with the Swiss in 1803. The agreement stated that the Swiss would provide four regiments to France, but no troops to any other nation. Swiss troops would be paid the same rate as French troops, and enjoy the same privileges. In addition, each Swiss regiment would have one Catholic and one Protestant chaplain, an unusual arrangement unknown in most of Napoleon’s forces.

On July 31, 1792, one of the more radical sections of the city of Paris issued an address to the people of France and their representatives in the Legislative Assembly. “For too long a despicable tyrant has played with our destinies,” it read. “Let us all unite to declare the fall of this cruel king, let us say with one accord, Louis XVI is no longer the king of the French.”

Three days later, Parisians awoke to find themselves and their city condemned to destruction if they moved against the Bourbon monarch. The commander of the Prussian Army, Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, had issued a proclamation that made public his intention to punish the French for their insult to royal authority and legitimacy. The duke sentenced the “city of Paris and all its inhabitants . . . to military execution and total destruction” unless the king was immediately restored to his former place and prerogative.

The response to Brunswick’s threat was virtually unanimous- and defiant. All 48 Paris sections, except one, demanded Louis’s abdication and a redoubling of the war effort. The sections’ spirits were lifted and their call for abdication was given renewed weight by the recent arrival in the capital of radical volunteers from Marseille bound for the front. Marching into Paris, the soldiers sang loudly the patriotic revolutionary song “La Marseillaise,” the words to which called the people “To arms! . . . So impure blood may water our soil!” This call for violence was echoed over the following days in the streets and in newspapers such as Marat’s L’ Ami du peuple.

The violence was realized on August 10. That day, leaders in Paris declared the city to be an independent commune and called for the abolition of the Bourbon monarchy. Led by sympathetic National Guardsmen, now utterly beyond Lafayette’s control, a crowd descended on the Tuileries palace. Terrified, the king and his family barricaded themselves in their chambers. Neither locked doors nor the presence of the Swiss Guard, however, could deter an infuriated mob determined “to attack the palace exterminate everybody [and] force the king to abdicate.” The crowd numbering in the tens of thousands approached the palace, insisting that the king be brought before the National Assembly. With no option but to comply, Louis asked the Swiss to lay down their arms. The Swiss instinctively refused, and (witnessed by Napoleon) staunchly resisted the mob that rampaged through the courtyards of the palace. Of 800 Swiss Guards in Paris that day only 200 escaped the rest were hunted down, and either killed on the spot or dragged off to prison and murdered a few days later. After this massacre the Swiss Diet ordered the withdrawal of all its regiments from France.

During the killing spree, Louis and his family escaped a similar fate only by slipping away and seeking refuge with the Legislative Assembly. The Swedish ambassador summed up the events of August 10 by writing that nothing could “describe the horror of yesterday. . . . For the moment the king has been divested of all his functions.” Robespierre, feeling that something momentous had taken place, took a different view of the carnage. Gloating over the king’s misfortune and animated by the sudden burst of radical energy, he saw the bloodshed as the hallmark of “the most beautiful revolution that has ever honored humanity.”

Swiss Guards, the Swiss soldiers in The Vatican

The Swiss Guard is the group in charge of the Vatican City’s State’s safety. It is the smallest professional army in the world with about 110 soldiers. Dressed with an unmistakable uniform, the Swiss Guard offer one of the most picturesque images of the Vatican, although its role is far from being merely decorative.


The Swiss Guard is in charge of the vigilance, safety and protection of the Pope inside the Apostolic Palace, as well as honorific services during ceremonies, audiences and receptions.
They are also in charge of the Vatican’s control accesses and of the protection of the College of Cardinals during Sede Vacante.


The Swiss Guard is the last army of Swiss mercenaries, a group that reached great popularity during the XV and XVIII centuries because of their special effectiveness.

The body was created on January 21st 1506, three years after Pope Julius II occupied the Chair of St Peter and requested soldiers to the Swiss nobility for his own protection, thus creating a group of 150 men.

Uniform and weapons

The Swiss Guard’s uniform is recent (XX century), although it is inspired in a model attributed to Michaelangelo designed in 1505 following the latest trends of the time and based on Pope Julius II’s House colours.

Curiously, the guards are armed with halberd and a rapier, although they carry modern weapons (pistols, machine guns, submachine guns and assault rifles) while on duty, due to being trained at the highest level.

Interaction with visitors

The Swiss Guard are also in charge of the surveillance, protection and control of accesses. This is the time when they are most visible. Tourists and pilgrims are usually a cause of headaches for them, though they regularly stay away from the public.
You will have to relate to them if you intend to have a guided tour to the Vatican Necropolis. You will need to pass a control and they will ask you for your entrance ticket.

We will provide you with some tips to deal with this military group.

– This body is very serious, not folkloric. For this reason, they do not pose for photos, and if we decide to approach them, we must be very respectful.

– It is not a problem to take a photo where a Swiss Guard appears in it, as long as it is done from a safe distance.

– As happens with any other safety group in the world, we can resort to them if we need to. They do not mind assisting the visitor. However, it is best to avoid trivial questions related to the location of things, for example. A good way to start the question would be: “Scusi Signore…”

– Inside St Peter’s Square, you may resort to the Italian Police in case you need to, since it provides assistance here.

The Amazing Story Behind Why Swiss Guards Are Always Sworn In On May 6th

Have you ever heard this story? It’s absolutely amazing!

Every year on May 6th, the Vatican swears in new Swiss guards. But why on May 6th?

The ancient story dates back to the 16the century’s Sack of Rome during the Italian Wars on May 6, 1527.

That morning during an attack led by Captain General Bourbon at the Torrione Gate in Rome, the captain was very seriously wounded.

Because of captain’s hesitation, Spanish mercenaries barricaded through the gate, while German lansquenets invaded Borgo and St. Peter’s Basilica. Approximately 20,000 Lutheran mercenaries participated in this invasion against 189 Swiss guards and 5000 citizens/militia.

According to the Vatican’s website, the Swiss Guards stood firm through this invasion “at the foot of the obelisk (now in St. Peter’s Square, but then near the German cemetery within the Vatican close to the Basilica), together with the few remnants of the Roman troops, resisted desperately.”

The Spaniards killed the papacy’s Swiss Guard Captain Kaspar Röist “in his quarters in front of his wife.”

Only 42 of the 189 guards survived the attack.

These survivors were “the ones who, when all was lost, under the command of Hercules Göldli guarded Pope Clement VII’s retreat to safety in Castel Sant’Angelo. The rest fell gloriously, massacred together with two hundred fugitives, on the steps of the High Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Pope Clement VII and his men were able to escape to safety, thanks to the ‘Passetto’, a secret corridor which Pope Alexander VI had built along the top of the wall connect­ing the Vatican with Castel Sant’Angelo.”

Although this may seem like a terrible loss for the Swiss Guards, they were up against 20,000 professional troops. Only 5,000 of the Lutheran mercenaries’ troops remained after the battle.

The Vatican swears in new Swiss Guards every year on May 6th in memory of the Last Stand of the Swiss Guards.

As the Vatican website explains, “this date, which in 1527 was a day of death, today, is a day of life, because each year on this day, the new recruits take their solemn oath of loyalty.”

Here’s a video from the 2017 Swiss Guard Swearing In Ceremony:

Click here if you cannot see the video above.

St. Martin of Tours , St. Sebastian, and St. Niklaus von Flüe are the patron saints of the Swiss Guard.

Sts. Martin, Sebastian, and Niklaus von Flüe, please pray for and protect the Pontifical Swiss Guard!

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