Sunday, September 13, 2009

NAC Orientation Part VI - The Swiss Guard Barracks

So I know these pictures have been long in coming, but they are finally here. Last week on Tuesday we took an excursion to the Swiss Guard Barracks in Vatican City. We weren't allowed to see too much of the place, but they did let us in the main cortile (courtyard) and their armory. You can look up all the finer details on the Swiss Guard yourself, since I would probably have to look up most of the information again to tell you about them here, anyway. [:) In short, though, they are actual Swiss men who are serving in the Swiss armed forces. They generally serve two year stints, though some stay on as officers for significantly more than that. There are, I believe, only 110 in Vatican City right now, according to the officer who was leading our tour, though I could be wrong on that. I'll comment more as I move through the pictures.

This was in the central courtyard. The place is very obviously Swiss. It is directly abutting the wall of Vatican City, I believe, likely the same wall through which the original swiss mercenaries led the Pope to safety in that historic slaughter. Like I said, feel free to look the story up- it actually makes for a rather exciting tale.

Here we are, gathering around our guide to hear some of their history and get split into groups for the armory tour. As you can see, it was casual dress, but some of us still wore our clerics anyway. The funny thing is, the Swiss Guard salute priests as they walk by, and a couple of us have actually gotten mistaken for being priests by the Swiss Guard one time and gotten saluted. That didn't happen this time- it was pretty obvious we were seminarians.

Here are the Swiss Mannequins in the entrance to the armory.

This is the main lobby of the armory. Here they hang their uniforms and store some of their other accessories. Notice the name tags on the uniforms. The armor is not used quite so often anymore...

Here's a better look at the armor and the officers helmets.

Behold the Swiss Guard Halberds... and Father Belsole translating from German into English and back again for us with one of the guard who doesn't speak English very well.

This is what the officer uniforms used to look like, if I remember correctly. For a while, the uniforms used to change with each Pope, adding the main color from the papal crest to the uniform. They did away with that some decades ago, though.

Here is what you see upon entering the weapon room in the armory. Most of these are not used anymore, but they were at one point. The weapons range from ancient to quite modern, with modern rifles amongst the older guns in that section. Notice my personal favorite- the spiked club- in one of the pictures. They even had crossbows and claymores.

These are their dress swords which they actually wear and still use.

I found this to be an interesting shot. After their first year, the Swiss Guard are permitted to get married, so we actually saw a couple women and their kids in the courtyard. The solitary kickball and the little girl in the Swiss Guard Barracks was just too poetic a juxtaposition for me to pass up without a picture.

Finally, here we are leaving the complex. I took this shot mostly to give a better impression of the height of the place. It did not appear to be an unusually large barracks, but it was rather tall.

So that was the Swiss Guard Barracks. We then had to hurry back for holy hour and evening prayer, since the day was scheduled a little tightly, but it was definitely worth it. Praise God.

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