The Swiss Confederation

Welcome to our introductory page on German-Swiss culture and life in Switzerland! On this page you’ll find links to our articles related to Switzerland—with information, photos, and links to help you learn more about German-Swiss customs and daily life in der Schweiz.


Two members of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. Learn more below.
PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

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The Pontifical Swiss Guard (Päpstliche Schweizergarde)
The general term Swiss Guards refers to the Swiss soldiers who once served as mercenaries, bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at various European courts. But today most people think of Swiss Guards as the colorful guardsmen stationed at the Vatican to protect the pontif. The contemporary Pontifical Swiss Guard can trace its origins back to earlier units, such as the Swiss Hundred Guard (Cent Suisses) stationed at the French court from 1497 until 1830. The reputation of the Swiss mercenary soldiers as guardsmen helped lead to the creation of the only Swiss Guard unit that exists today.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard of Vatican City was created in 1506 (under Pope Julius II) and actually consists of Swiss citizens. Recruits must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss military and demonstrate good conduct. The Pontifical Swiss Guard now has about 110 to 135 members, and celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2006. In addition to their Vatican duties, Swiss Guards are also stationed at the entrance to the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, 24km (15mi) southeast of Rome.

The distinctive, tri-color (red, blue and yellow) Swiss Guard dress uniforms are tailor made in the Vatican barracks for each soldier. The dress uniform weighs 8 pounds (3.6 kg). Guardsmen also have a simpler solid blue uniform for regular duty, worn with white gloves, black shoes and a black baret.

In addition to the ceremonial sword worn with the dress uniform, the Swiss Guard also has modern weapons at its disposal, including Austrian Glock 19 pistols and Heckler & Koch MP5 9mm submachine guns.

WEB > Pontifical Swiss Guards – The official Swiss Guard website (www.swissguard.va) is in English, French, German and Italian.

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