6 Secrets of the Swiss Guard

Find out more about this mysterious and intriguing papal army
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv with two Swiss Guards at the Vatican. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv recently had his photo taken with the Swiss Guards – the personal army of Pope Francis.

To accompany Bishop Vincent’s photographs, here are 6 Secrets of the Swiss Guard.

1. An Australian woman lives in the Swiss Guard Barracks

Joanne Bergamin (nee Ford) was the first female Secretary to the Commander of the Swiss Guard.

In 2014, she married Dominic Bergamin, a Corporal of the Swiss Guard. Joanne runs a popular Instagram account featuring her life as a Swiss Guard wife.

Usually celibate in their time of service, special permission was required for the senior member to marry.

Joanne and Dominic Bergamin celebrate marriage

Joanne and Dominic Bergamin celebrate marriage.


2. There is a Swiss Guard Cook Book


The Vatican Cookbook: Presented by the Pontifical Swiss Guard’ was written by David Geisser, young chef and Swiss Guard.

Pope Francis gave David a slice of pastry to cheer him up after Argentina defeated Switzerland in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The Vatican Cookbook by David Geisser (in cover photo). Source: Sophia Institute Press.


3. Swiss Guards have become Swiss Priests


The focus on the Holy Father, regular prayer and sacraments inspire many Swiss Guards to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

Msgr. Alain de Raemy, former Swiss Guard Chaplain considers them the “best vocations supplier for Switzerland”

Fr Rudi Heim, Episcopal Vicar of the St Viktor region of the Diocese of Basel, is a former Swiss Guard. Pictured: Basel Cathedral. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Episcopal Vicar of St Viktor region, Diocese of Basel, Fr Rudi Heim, is a former Swiss Guard. Pictured: Basel Cathedral. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


4. The Swiss Guards fight to the death


Almost all of the Swiss Guard was killed in the Sack of Rome in 1527, defending the Pope from the army of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Security experts describe them as a “military trained close protection detail with modern weapons”.

New recruits swear the Oath of Loyalty to the Pope and his successors on May 6, which commemorates the fallen in 1527.

The oath is to “dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them”.


Flag of the Swiss Guard, 2010. The Oath of Loyalty is Sworn wearing Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Standard of the Swiss Guard, 2010. The Solemn Oath is sworn while holding the standard.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.


5. There is a Swiss Guard gift shop


The gift shop near Porta Sant’Anna is usually only for members of the Swiss Guard.

If you ask politely, the guards might let you browse and make a few purchases. The ties are great.


A Swiss Guard quietly does his duty at Porta Sant’Anna, an entrance to the Vatican. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


6. On a Roman Holiday


The Swiss Guards are normal young men, looking for adventure.

When not on duty, they can be found holidaying in Rome, Castel Gandolfo and relaxing with friends.

Some are even hosted at ‘Meet a Swiss Guard’ themed parties.

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn saw the sights in 'Roman Holiday' (1953) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn saw the sights in ‘Roman Holiday’ (1953).
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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