Protecting the Pope...and Obama


US President Barack Obama walks past Swiss guards as he arrives at the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis in Rome on Thursday.

This content was published on March 28, 2014 - 10:05

The US leader was in Rome as part of a European trip that took him also to the Netherlands and Belgium.

The Swiss Guard has been protecting the pontiff for over 500 years. It is most recognisable for its Renaissance-style garb in the colours of the Medici family.

Visitors to the Vatican can see the Pope's soldiers guarding various entrances carrying their halberds, a sort of combined spear and battleaxe. The guards also carry out plainclothes security duties around the Pope whenever he moves in public. Members of the Swiss Guard are trained in self-defence and the use of firearms.

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