Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Defenders of The Church

The BBC reports:

They are known as the "Defenders of the Church" and this weekend the Vatican Swiss Guard celebrated 500 years of service.

In that time they have protected 42 successive popes, although more recently the Vatican has been guarded by Italian security forces and plainclothes police. But personal safety of the pope is still the guards' full responsibility.

The guards first arrived in Rome on 22 January 1506. At that time, Helvetian soldiers were employed as mercenaries, renowned for their courage and their loyalty.

There were many famous battles, but their most notable hour came in 1527, during the sack of Rome. Almost the entire guard was massacred by troops of the Holy Roman emperor Charles V on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.

Of 189 guards on duty only 42 survived, but their bravery ensured that Clement VII escaped to safety, down the "passeto", a secret corridor which still links the Vatican to Castel Sant' Angelo.


According to National Geographic News, a guard has to meet the following criteria to qualify for the job:

They number only about 100, and to qualify, one must be Swiss, Catholic, and at least five feet eight inches (173 centimeters) tall.


It sounds good to me.



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