The world's smallest army opens its doors to Rome Reports.
It is here that they train and rest. There are just over 100 men that serve in this unique army. Their mission? To protect the the pope.
Most people can recognize them due to their colorful blue, red and yellow uniforms, in honor of the Medici family—one of the most famous families from the Italian renaissance.
But they sometimes wear dark blue uniforms on papal trips, for example. Nicola has accompanied Pope Francis on some of his visits to different countries.
When I was a child, I saw some documentaries on TV about the Swiss Guards, particularly in 2006, when it was the 500th anniversary of the Guard. And it was like a dream.
But a dream does not mean that it is always easy. Their duties include directing pilgrims and tourists, accompanying heads of state on their visits to the Apostolic Palace and, most importantly, acting as the pope's personal security guard, guaranteeing his safety at all times—even sometimes pushing themselves to their limits.
It can happen, especially the first few times you do it. You have to make sure you have a good breakfast and, ultimately, since you don't move, you have to wiggle your hands and feet a bit to keep the blood flowing.
To join this military corps, recruits must be between 19 and 30 years of age. They commit to a 26-month service. All guards are men. Though they are a centuries old institution, the Swiss Guard continue to modernize, for example, with the ongoing remodeling of their barracks.
Foundation, Swiss Guard Barracks Renovation
The present building is a 19th century building, built with the techniques of the 19th century and it requires really to be basically renovated or even reconstructed.
The atmosphere in the barracks is a mixture of discipline and brotherhood. And some even describe the Swiss Guard as a big family.
In fact, there are families who live in the Vatican. For example, Pilar and Raphael met during a vacation to Mexico and they were married in 2017.
Even Pope Francis knows who they are. And whenever he can, he gives them tequila as a gift.
I thanked him when he approached me, I said, "Thank you very much for the tequila, your Holiness" and he replied "Are you out of it?
Living among the Swiss Guard, as Pilar does, means experiencing a combination of faith, Swiss folklore and military spirit. With more than 500 years of history, this special army has experienced many important events.
For example, the swearing-in of new recruits every May 6 is tied to a historical event for the corps. That day commemorates the sack of Rome in 1527 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's troops. Of the nearly 190 Swiss Guards, only 42 survived and they were the ones who had escorted Pope Clement VII from the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angelo for safety.
And this spirit continues today. Carrying the flag of fidelity to the pope, each Swiss Guard makes his mission one of duty and honor. It is a privilege reserved for only a few, which is why it is the "smallest army in the world."