On a bright Tuesday morning in the San Damaso courtyard of the apostolic palace 30 young men took a solemn oath of allegiance to the Pope against a backdrop of military pomp and circumstance.
As new members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard they join an elite force who has been protecting Pontiff’s and serving the Church since 1506.
The elaborate swearing in ceremony took place in the presence of Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State and of Vatican dignitaries.
In a speech, the Guard’s commander Colonel Daniel Anrig told the new recruits that they were swearing an oath” to serve the Supreme Pontiff faithfully, loyally and honorably and commit all their forces for him, even at the risk of one’s own life, if necessary.”
As part of the ceremony each new member placed a hand on the flag of the Swiss Guard and raised three fingers on their other hand, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity.
This event which takes place every year on May 6th marks the most significant and blackest event in the history of the guard when in 1527, 147 members lost their lives while fighting Holy Roman Empire troops during the Sack of Rome. This battle allowed Pope Clement VII to escape to safety through a stone passageway leading from the Vatican to Castle Sant Angelo on the Tiber river.
During their time in service as Swiss guards these men will wear the famous blue, yellow and red uniform which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Apart from protecting the Pope, they will be called on to answer tourists’ queries, perform ceremonial duties and assist at Vatican events.