One of the most distinctive sights for visitors to the Vatican is the men of the Swiss Guard in their blue, yellow and red uniforms and ceremonial halberds.
Recruits, who swear allegiance to the Pope, are traditionally single men from Switzerland, where they must have undergone basic military training.
An important pre-condition might soon change, however, because the force’s new commander has said he’s considering bringing in women. Colonel Daniel Anrig said logistical problems at the barracks of the 110-strong Guards could be resolved simply by building separate living accommodation.
He said the female recruits could perform a number of duties carried out by male members of the force. “Certainly we can think about this,” said Colonel Anrig.
Most Swiss Guards find their greatest battle is putting up with thousands of tourists asking the same questions: “Is there a bathroom?” “Which way to the museum?” and “Why can’t I see the Pope?”
As anyone who’s been to the Vatican can confirm, they attend to these day after day with patience and sometimes even a smile.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re planning a visit to the Italian capital, to take in the Vatican, don’t miss Luxique’s selection of luxury hotels in Rome.