The Pontifical Swiss Guard (Papal Swiss Guard, Swiss Guard; Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, Cohors Pedestris Helvetiorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis; Italian:Guardia Svizzera Pontificia; Päpstliche Schweizergarde; Garde suisse pontificale) is a small force maintained by the Holy See that is responsible for the safety of the Pope, including the security of the Apostolic Palace. The Swiss Guard serves as the de facto military of Vatican City. Established in 1506 under Pope Julius II, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is among the oldest military units in continuous operation.
The dress uniform is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. The modern guard has the role of bodyguard of the Pope. The Swiss Guard is equipped with traditional weapons, such as the halberd, as well as with modern firearms. Since the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the guard’s non-ceremonial roles, and has seen enhanced training in unarmed combat and small arms.
Recruits to the guards must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces and can obtain certificates of good conduct. Recruits must have a professional degree or high school diploma and must be between 19 and 30 years of age and at least 174 cm (5 ft 8.5 in) tall. In 2009, the Pontifical Swiss Guard commandant, Daniel Anrig, suggested that the Guard might someday be open to recruiting women, but he added that the admission of female recruits remained far in the future. Qualified candidates must apply to serve. If accepted, new guards are sworn on 6 May every year in the San Damaso Courtyard (Cortile di San Damaso) in the Vatican (6 May is the anniversary of the Sack of Rome). The chaplain of the guard reads aloud the oath in the languages of the guard (German, Italian, and French).