As you may know, Pope Francis is on the second day of his Apostolic trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, having departed Rome yesterday morning for Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. I have posted news stories about the trip, including some lovely photos, from the Vatican news website and will continue to do so until he returns to the Vatican.


Just a short while ago, in the Vatican’s beautiful San Damaso courtyard, 23 young men were sworn in as new Pontifical Swiss Guards in a solemn, yet very colorful ceremony that spans centuries.

The weather has been on and off threatening throughout the day but sun prevailed and the ceremony was held in the San Damaso courtyard. In inclement weather the ceremony is usually moved to the Paul VI Hall.

Relatives and friends have been in Rome for days, filling neighboring restaurants at mealtimes and attending many of the pre-swearing in events, including an audience with Pope Francis on Saturday, a concert, vespers, a gala dinner Saturday evening offered by the Swiss Canon of Ticino, and this morning, Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica.

May 6 is the traditional date of the swearing-in ceremony as it marks the day in 1527, during the Sack of Rome that 147 Swiss Guards lost their life defending Pope Clement VII. The Guards had been founded only 21 years earlier, on January 22, 1506 by Pope Julius II. A ceremony on Saturday commemorated the 147 who died with the laying of a wreath in the courtyard of the Roman Proto-Martyrs. (photos in this slideshow by my EWTN/ACI colleague Daniel Ibanez)

This past January, to commemorate the 513th anniversary of the founding of the corps, new black helmets, manufactured in synthetic ASA with a 3D printer, were worn! An amazing novelty for what has been called “the world’s smallest army.”

To enroll as a Swiss Guard, by the way, one must be a Swiss, Catholic male under the age of 30 and in good health. The 110-member Swiss Guards serve as a ceremonial unit but principally as protectors of the person and residence of the Pope. They are expertly trained in all forms of weapon use and self-defense.

At today’s ceremony, each new Guard will take his oath on the flag of the Swiss Guards, pronouncing it in one of the four official Swiss languages – French, German, Italian and a romance language spoken in Switzerland called Romanisch. (photo from Swiss Guard website:

With their left hand on the flag, they hold their right hand up, showing three fingers that represent the Trinity and repeat this oath:

«I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff and his legitimate successors and I dedicate myself to them with all my strength. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the Apostolic See is vacant. Furthermore, I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. I swear to observe all that the honour of position demands of me.»


No, Michelangelo did not design the current Swiss Guard uniform, but here’s a bit of history (from their website) about the attire of today’s Swiss Guards (and the next time you see a Swiss Guard, you’ll know what uniform he is wearing):

Gala Uniform
Probably the most famous uniform in the entire world, the so-called «Gala Uniform», owes it popularity largely to the design of commander Jules Repond (1910-1921). The famous colours of blue, red and yellow are the traditional colours of the Medici family. The blue and yellow cloth stripes interrupt in a flowing movement the red vest and pants. At the beginning of the 20th century, after much research and in accordance with the frescoes of Raphael, the hats were replaced with the Basque cap still worn today, on which the rank insignia can be seen. Furthermore, the white collar was introduced to replace the folded collar.

During public order, the guards wear white gloves, at honourable services during the papal ceremony they wear the black helmet, at state receptions for representation purposes additionally the time-honoured and at that time the weapon of the Swiss mercenaries, the halberd.

At Easter, Christmas and at the swearing-in ceremonies an additional 17th century armour complements the Gala uniform. This includes the striking white collar, the white gloves and a silver helmet with a red feather for the halberdiers, a dark purple feather for the officers and a white feather for the commander and the sergeant. On both sides of the silver helmet a relief of the founder’s Pope Julius II «della Rovere» family oak is depicted.

Exercise uniform
The so-called «Exercise uniform», the uniform worn for training and during night duties, is entirely blue. At the entrance to St. Anne’s the same uniform is also worn during the week for practical reasons. The main roads are also located there, and the colourful Gala uniform would cause too much distraction for the motorists. These uniforms are worn with a white collar and white cuffs.

Representation uniform
When officers get invited to a gala occasion the red, velvet and very delicate gala-uniform is not appropriate to represent the corps officially. Instead they wear the black Representation uniform; this was modelled after the earlier officers Ordnance uniform.

The drummers wear a yellow-black uniform with a black helmet and yellow-black feathers during their performances.

In winter and when it rains, a mantle is worn to protect the uniform from the elements.

Training uniform
To participate in the growing offers in education in the section of Security an especially for the modern operations, a training uniform has been developed and implemented.


If you planned your Italian trip for May, expecting warm, spring temperatures, plenty of sunshine and the chance to eat outdoors, you will be disappointed this year! It feels and looks more like November, tha May, especially mornings and evenings, and warm clothing is a must.

Municipal law in Italy establishes when heat in buildings may be turned on and must be turned off: OFF usually within the first 10 days of November and OFF, in the first 10 days or so of April. If it cold before November or after the April turn-off, that’s just too bad! Those who own their apartments almost always have an independent heating system and are not subject to municipal deadlines.

Heat in my building has been off for a bit over 3 weeks but we sure could use it now. I have several layers of wool on as I write and just turned my AC unit on to heat.

For weather here in recent days, read on:

ROME: Two people died and another person went missing on Sunday (May 5) as high winds and heavy rain pummelled Italy and neighbouring France.

In Sicily, an unexpected gust of wind killed a 65-year-old German kitesurfer on the Islands of the Stagnone nature reserve, smashing him against a parked car as he tried to go into the sea, Italian media reported. He was not wearing a buoyancy device or helmet despite the authorities recently making them mandatory for kitesurfers.

Read more at–one-missing-as-freak-weather-hits-italy–france-11506280