Reuters International

Blacksmith Johann Schmidberger works on an suit of armour for the Vatican's Swiss Guards at his workshop in Molln, Austria, March 29, 2017. Picture taken March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian blacksmiths who produce ceremonial suits of armour for the Vatican's Swiss Guards are close to the end of their current deal to do so, and say supplying the suits will not now be an issue for many years to come.

One of the drawbacks of the Swiss Guards' medieval uniforms is that the craftsmanship needed to make them is disappearing.

Faced with an aged stock in need of replacement, they turned to brothers Johann and Georg Schmidberger - the fifth generation to run the family blacksmith's business in the Austrian town of Molln - to provide them with 80 suits of armour covering the torso and arms.

The brothers have produced 10 of the suits a year since 2009, meaning the deal will be completed this year, and new replacements will not be needed for quite some time.

"I think it won't be an issue for another couple of hundred years," Johann said.

The brothers' workshop, where all kinds of hammers are piled high near a furnace and anvil, will continue to supply swords, locks, gates and other items to customers including theatres and private collectors.

And, for the coming years at least, he and his brother will produce the Guards' distinctive crested helmets, he said.

(Reporting by Leonhard Foeger and Francois Murphy; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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