The Papal Artifacts’ Collection is primarily dedicated to artifacts connected to the papacy. Individual popes, their biographies and multiple items belonging to them, including first and second class relics, make up the majority of this Collection. But that isn’t all it is.
If you investigate the headings of this site you will note the multiple possibilities under Papal History, including Saints & Blesseds, Notable Individuals, Anti Popes and Swiss Guard. Those are the choices available to you. Father Kunst has developed relationships with several members of the corp. As a result, many items have become a part of this Collection as well as having many opportunities to visit the Swiss Guard Armory on several of the tours Father leads in Rome.
Here is a link to the Swiss Guard section of this website. We hope you’ll enjoy visiting these pages on the anniversary of the day the new recruits take their oath of allegiance. A short history of the Guard is included with these items.
Papal Artifacts honors the work and dedication of the Swiss Guard.
This replica flag was a gift from the Swiss Guard to Father Kunst in honor of The Vatican Comes to Duluth in 2004.
Initially Father Kunst asked them if they could produce a flag for this event and they responded by producing a replica of John Paul II’s flag.
Each flag has, in the upper hoist on the left-hand side, the coat of arms of the present pope. In the lower hoist on the bottom right-hand side, is the coat of arms of Julius II, known as theWarrior Pope. He started the Swiss Guard in the 16th century. In the center is the coat of arms of the Guard Commandant, Colonel Elmar Theodor Madar.
There are two images on each flag containing the colors of the Guard as well. They are always blue, yellow and red. These are the colors of the Medici Pope, Clement VII, for whom many Swiss Guards gave their lives in 1527.
Here is Father’s Commentary on the Swiss Guard Uniform Featured Above.
This is a Swiss Guard uniform from the papacy of Pius X. We can tell it’s from his pontificate, because up until his death, every pope would have had some aspect of the Swiss Guard uniform changed. But in 1914, when Pius X died, what they did was to go back to the original uniform from the Renaissance, from the time of Michelangelo, if you will. The original uniform of the Swiss Guard under Pope Julius II was probably that of an ordinary soldier of that era. So you can look at old pictures from the turn of the 20th century and say, “Well, that doesn’t look like a present day uniform of a Swiss Guard uniform.” It had evolved.
And so we can tell that this one is from Pius X because of the piping that is on the jacket. It has his coat of arms. So the time frame of the uniforms can be distinguished by the piping on the jacket.
I’ve had the opportunity to go many times to the Swiss Guard armory and to visit with some of the soldiers. In fact, some of the seminarians at the North American College in Rome taught some of the Guard members English.
There is something very unique about this particular uniform which has caused the Swiss Guard to want it. I’ll back up a bit here with some explanation. The common service time for a Swiss Guard is two years. If a man serves for five years he gets to keep the uniform. But if he keeps it, he has to sign an agreement stating that at some point it has to be returned to the Vatican, either upon his death or at some other point. As far as the Vatican is concerned, they own all Swiss Guard uniforms because of that agreement.
So having visited their armory several times, I found it surprising that they don’t have too many uniforms in their archives. They have Leo XIII’s and Gregory XVI’s, if I remember correctly. But they don’t have one of Pius X. And so when they saw that I had Pius X’s, they wanted it back.
The Swiss Guard first entered Rome January 22, 1506, beginning their service to Pope Julius II, who had established it. So in 2006, they had their 500th anniversary. They had a big celebration and presentation of the Swiss Guard’s history, and they asked me for mine for the presentation. We signed agreements regarding this, but in the end they didn’t use it because they refurbished one of their own from an earlier papacy.
This one is in excellent condition for its age.
But the fact that the Swiss Guard doesn’t have one of these, but we have it as part of this Collection, actually makes it very interesting as well.
A couple of years before their anniversary, we had a huge showing of my Collection, and the Swiss Guard was very kind to give us one of the modern uniforms. So they actually allowed me to travel to Vatican City-State, and I met with them in the archives with the commandant, and I literally took the uniform in a suitcase and I brought it back to Duluth (Minnesota) for the showing of this Collection. So the agreement had been that I’d use one of theirs and they’d use mine.
It is a very nice item, a very unique item from the oldest standing army in the world. It has been in place for over 500 years.
Pope Julius II established them. What had happened was that Switzerland, which has almost always been a neutral country, had men who were living there who didn’t necessarily want to be neutral; they wanted to fight battles, too. And so originally they were mercenaries, basically an army for hire. So Pope Julius II, the ‘Warrior Pope’, the man who would literally go into battles in the Italian Papal States, actually hired the Swiss mercenaries to come in and support the papal army in these battles. So that’s how it started, and that is how it has continued to this very day.
In order to be a Swiss Guard, you have to be Swiss, Catholic, single when you join and a certain height. You can get married afterwards but not before. Their primary role is to protect the Holy Father. We also see them standing at Vatican functions, for example, at papal Masses as honor guards. But even as an honor guard, they’re literally protecting the Holy Father. They are the equivalent to the Green Berets in the United States, functioning as the highest level of the army. And the fact is that never has a Pope died on their watch–never in over 500 years.
And so we say they are a part of the living history of the papacy.
This is the oath that all new recruits make when they begin their service with the Swiss Guard.
They hold their flag and with their left hand, while raising three fingers of their right hand, to symbolize the Holy Trinity.
Before God they promise to do everything, including give their lives to protect the Pope and his legitimate successors.
I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Francis and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the see is vacant. Furthermore I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors, respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!