Vatican: the Swiss guards, these soldiers ready to die for the pope

With their feathered helmets, ruffs and puffed sleeves, the Vatican’s Swiss guards often evoke, in the visitor’s mind, the image of royal jesters straight out of the Middle Ages. But while they happily pose for photographers, the Swiss Guards are not there just to impress.

At the beginning of the 16th centurye century, Swiss mercenaries, renowned for their courage and loyalty, marched on Rome to put themselves in the service of Pope Julius II. Since then, the world’s smallest army has been charged with protecting the pope, his residence and the city-state’s borders.

At the end of April, journalists had the rare privilege of accessing the quarters of the Swiss Guards in the east of the Vatican City. The opportunity to have a glimpse of their daily life, in the middle of rehearsal before the incorporation of the new recruits called to take the oath.

A childhood dream

Dressed in their traditional red, yellow and blue uniform, to which were added their armor and their halberd, the men gathered in the courtyard performed a precise choreography, each brandishing three fingers of the right hand – symbol of the divine trinity – while pronouncing the oath of loyalty to the pope. Among the 34 men who will commit to “offer their life” in the defense of the sovereign pontiff is Renato Peter, 22 years old, originally from a Swiss village near Saint-Gall which, for several centuries, has provided personnel for this elite corps.

Peter was 12 the first time he attended a papal audience in St. Peter’s Square. Since then, he has dreamed of becoming a Swiss Guard. “In the afternoon, we went to see their barracks, remembers Peter, who was then visiting Rome with his parish. I said to myself: this job is so cool! Then I told my mother that

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