A group from the Scots College visited the Barracks of the Swiss Guards within the walls of the Vatican City recently.
The St Andrews Literary and Debating Society of the Scots College recently organised a trip to the Swiss Guards Barracks, set within the walls of the Vatican City.
Hellebardier Manuel von Dänkien, the Secretary of the Commander met the group and showed them around the complex, set inside the boundaries of the Vatican City, at the Porta Sant’ Anna. The tour began in the guest cantina, a room decorated with murals depicting scenes of the history of the Swiss Guards. There, the groups guide went through the history of the Pontifical Swiss Guards and answered some questions from the Scots.
In the drill yard between the buildings and huddled under umbrellas, the line of the wall running between the Apostolic Palace and Castel Sant’Angelo was pointed out to the visitors and the significance of the line mentioned, as that wall runs along the point where 147 Swiss Guards gave their lives in the defence of the Vatican City during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
The next stop on the tour was the armoury of the Swiss compound. The room contains the suits of armour used by the guards for ceremonial duties today as well as more historic pieces that span the 512 year history of the standing Vatican army. The room also contains weapons that have been used down the ages, both ceremonially and during the defence of the Papal states.
Hellebardier von Dänkien did stress though that throughout the history of the guards, in times of conflict, such as the unrest around the establishment of the Italian state and World War II, the guards orders involved laying down their weapons in time of difficulty. The order reflected the difficulties that faced the Guards with respect to their own numbers and the armies they faced.
The tour finished with a look into the Swiss Guards chapel, dedicated to one of their three patrons, St. Martin. The guards also maintain St Sebastian and St Nicholas of Flüe as their patron saints. Mass was said there for the intentions of the Swiss Guards by the Vice Rector, Fr Stuart Parkes.