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Pope protection Ex-Swiss minister seeks funds for Vatican Swiss Guard barracks

Swiss Guards parade in Vatican

Swiss Guards, in their blue-and-yellow uniforms, parade in the courtyard of the Papal Guard barracks at the Vatican, Rome, in 2006

(Keystone / Maurizio Brambatti)

Former Swiss cabinet minister Doris Leuthard has agreed to help find tens of millions of Swiss francs to fund a new barracks for the Swiss Guard at the Vatican City in Rome, Italy. 

Leuthard, who stepped down as environment, transport, energy and communications minister in December 2018, will preside over a foundation which plans to rebuild the Swiss Guard barracks in Rome.

She will be responsible for having to find around CHF55 million ($54 million), the foundation external linksaid on Wednesday. 

The current barracks, built in the 19th-century, is run-down and does not have sufficient space to house the guards and their families. The Ticino architects Durisch+Nolli are overseeing the design of the project, which should be ready in 2023. 

The foundation plans to seek funds in Switzerland and abroad with support from Vatican City officials.

In Rome, the Pontifical Swiss Guardexternal link is tasked with protecting the pope and his official palace in the Vatican City. The elite corps has protected the Vatican since 1506 since the first Swiss mercenaries arrived on request of the then Pope Julius II. 

New members of the 135-strong company must be single Swiss men (aged 19-30) and Roman Catholic; they serve for a period of at least two years. After five years' service they are allowed to marry and invite their families to join them at the barracks.

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