May 6 is probably the most important day of the year for a Swiss Guard. This is when new recruits swear an oath to Pope Francis and his successors in the courtyard of the Papal Palace in the Vatican. It's a chance to cast an intimate look into the life of the smallest army in the world.
“To be a Swiss Guard is a vocation. You need faith and deep conviction to follow this extraordinary and noble commitment,” says Colonel Christoph Graf, commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which was formed in 1506 by Pope Julius II.
This year, 23 new recruits will take the oath in the Vatican. May 6 commemorates the 147 Swiss soldiers who died defending Clement VII during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
To celebrate the Pontifical Swiss Guard, the Vatican Museums are showing the photo exhibition “The Life of a Swiss Guard. A private view” until June 12. The 86 images, in colour and black and white, taken by Fabio Mantegna offer a glimpse into the daily life and history of the world’s smallest army, revealing a less well known side of the Vatican City.
(Images: Vatican Museum, Governatorato SCV; text: Luigi Jorio)