The Right Coast

April 07, 2005
The Swiss Guard
By Tom Smith

People watching the Pope's funeral may notice colorfully clad soldiers bearing halberds. They are the Swiss Guard. The history of the Swiss Guard is recounted here. They are essentially a company of Swiss mercenaries employed by the Holy See since the Renaissance, who swear loyalty to the Pope and when, as now, the seat of Peter is empty, to the College of Cardinals. They earned the undying gratitude of the Church during the sack of Rome in 1527 , covering the retreat of the Pope, till few were left. Now recruits to the Swiss Guard take their oath on the anniversary of their stand near the obelisk, then near the German cemetary.

The most famous stand of the Swiss Guard was before the Tuileries palace in Paris in 1792, during the French Revolution. 500 men of the regiment were massacred by the mob. The Lion of Lucerne, Thorvaldsen's monument at Lucerne, Switzerland, commemorates their stand. While the Swiss were dying in front, the French king and queen escaped out the back.

If you want your own combat ready halberd, you can get it here.