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Funds for renovation of Swiss Guards barracks fail to win majority

Swiss guards parading
The buildings housing the members of the Swiss Guard date back to the 19th century. Keystone/Fabio Frustaci

Voters in canton Lucerne have roundly dismissed a financial contribution to a renovation of the barracks of Swiss Guards at the Vatican.

Official resultsExternal link show 71.5% of voters on Sunday coming out against the funding.

The anti-clerical Freethinkers Association as well as mainly left-wing political parties forced a referendum challenging the CHF400,000 ($407,530) contribution agreed by the cantonal parliament.

The funding was to feed into a project launched by a Swiss foundationExternal link to modernise three 19th century buildings housing Swiss Guard members, as well as their administrative headquarters in Rome.

It is funded by private and public donations, including from the Swiss government, the Vatican, and – though not without controversay, as in the case of Lucerne – Swiss cantons.

The renovation costs are estimated at CHF50 million and work is likely to begin in 2026.

Outdated 

The barracks, which date back to 1825, do not meet the current requirements of the troops, nor do they comply with modern building regulations, according to the foundation.

Around 110 Swiss guards are stationed at the Vatican in Rome, but the number is set to increase to 135. The soldiers have acted as a security force and a guard unit to protect the Pope within the territory of the Vatican City since 1506.

Earlier this year, Switzerland upgraded its diplomatic links with the Holy See by inaugurating an embassy at the Vatican.

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