The Oath of the Swiss Guard
I swear to faithfully, honestly, and honorably serve the supreme pontiff and his legitimate successors, and to dedicate myself to them with all my strength, ready to sacrifice, should it become necessary, even my own life for them.
After the death of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI (1492 – 1503), and upon the death of Pius III who reigned in 1503 for less than a month, the new pope, Julius II, pursued military solutions to a host of problems left to him by Alexander’s attempt to create a Borgia dynasty. Julius led papal armies in a variety of military campaigns earning the name of The Warrior Pope. He proved to be an energetic defender of the Papal States and led his military campaigns in full battle dress. His nickname was Julius the Terrible. It was Pope Julius who first established a permanent corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican, and granted them the title of Defenders of the Church’s Freedom.
The Swiss Guard has varied in size over the years. Its most significant, hostile engagement was on May 6, 1527 when 147 of the 189 Guards lost their lives during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Clement VII to escape escorted by the other forty guards. They have served popes since the 16th century, operating mostly as a ceremonial escort to the pope. Swiss guardsmen must be Catholic males between the ages of nineteen and thirty years of age and at least 5′ 9″ tall. They must have the recommendation of their local parish and have served in a basic military school in Switzerland. They serve for a period of two years.
The uniform of the Swiss Guard, of which there are two styles in the Collection, is a Renaissance style weighing eight pounds. Its colors are those of the Medici coat of arms in honor of Clement VII. It is often thought that Michelangelo designed the uniform. He did not.
Service includes physical training, drills and instruction in combat. Enrollment into the Swiss Guard takes place on May 6th each year in honor of the day in 1527 when their forebears died defending Pope Clement VII.
The Papal Artifacts Collection has a variety of items and several wonderful stories concerning their procurement for you to enjoy.