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Timothy wrote:

Hi there,

  • What colors are the papal flag?
  • Who are the men in colorful costumes who have been responsible for the personal safety of the Pope since 1506?


  { What colors are the Papal flag and who has been responsible for the personal safety of the Pope? }

Mike replied:

Hi Timothy,

You said:

  • What colors are the papal flag?

They are yellow, white, {and gold, the keys|tiara} I think?

From [Wikipedia] The flag consists of two vertical bands, one of gold or yellow (hoist side) and one of white with the crossed keys of Saint Peter and the Papal Tiara centered in the white band. The crossed keys consist of a golden and a silver key, in which the silver key is placed in the dexter position. The flag is one of only two square country flags in the world, the other being the flag of Switzerland.

You said:

  • Who are the men in colorful costumes who have been responsible for the personal safety of the Pope since 1506?

They are called the Swiss guards. Here is their web page on the Vatican web site:

The Vatican Swiss Guards

and here is a photo gallery of their costumes:

Photo Gallery Swiss Guards

You can read more about them here on New Advent:

On New Advent: The Vatican > Swiss Guards

The Swiss Guards

The commander of the Swiss has the rank of a colonel of the regular troops and is addressed with this title. The other officers, therefore, have a rank three grades higher than their name indicates, and all the guards without exception possess the rank of sergeant in the regular troops. The quartermaster acts also as secretary of the commanding officer and as ordnance officer. The corps has its special chaplain and chapel, SS. Martino e Sebastiano, built by Pius V in 1568. Every candidate for the Guards must be a native Swiss, a Catholic, of legitimate birth, unmarried, under twenty-five years of age, at least five feet and eight inches in height, healthy, and free from bodily disfigurements. Whoever is not eligible for military service in Switzerland, is likewise refused admission into the Guards. The following papers are required: a certificate from his home (or a pass), baptismal certificate, and testimonial as to character, all signed by the authorities of his parish. After a year of good conduct the cost of the journey to Rome is refunded; this refund may, however, be paid in installments after a period of seven months. Applications for admission are to be addressed directly to the commanding officer. Those who wish to retire from the Guards may freely do so after giving three months' notice. After eighteen years' service each member of the Guards is entitled to a pension for life amounting to one-half of his pay, after twenty years to a pension amounting to two-thirds of his pay, after twenty-five years to five-sixths of his pay, and after thirty years to his full pay.

The duties of the Guards are as follows: They are responsible for the guarding of the sacred person of the pope and the protection of the Apostolic Palaces, all exits from the palace to the city and the entrance doors to the papal apartments being entrusted to their charge. They have also to take up their position in all pontifical functions in the papal chapels and in all other religious functions both within and without the Apostolic Palaces (the latter are now confined to St. Peter's) at which the pope assists. They have also other duties regulated by ancient traditions or more recent decrees. In addition, they have to appear for service at the order of the prefect of the Apostolic Palaces (the majordomo) and the maestro di camera. The religious privileges of the guards are very extensive. In all public processions the Swiss Guards take their place immediately behind the Noble Guard. As guards they are subject to the prefect of the Apostolic Palaces and were not in earlier times subject, like the regular troops, to the Ministry of War. When the pope occupies the sedia gestatoria, he is surrounded by six of the Swiss Guards, who carry the large swords known as "double-handed". The commander (colonel) of the Guards is an ex-officio privy chamberlain, and has the entrée into the Anticamera Segreta; the lieutenant (major) and the sublieutenant (captain of the first class) are ex officio honorary chamberlains, and have the entrée only to the Throne Room, which lies before the Anticamera Segreta. The Swiss Guards are fully armed, and have to submit to a strict course of exercises and gymnastics. Football is zealously cultivated by them in the Cortile del Belvedere, and their trumpet corps is splendidly organized. On solemn occasions, such as special functions in the German Cemetery near St. Peter's (Campo Santo Teutonico), which is also the burial-place for the Guards, the trumpet corps appears in public.

Even in the fifteenth century the popes possessed a body-guard of the Catholic Swiss. In 1505, at the instance of the Swiss Cardinal Schinner, a treaty was made by Julius II with the two cantons of Zurich and Lucerne, in accordance with which these cantons had to supply constantly 250 men as a body-guard to the pope. Since this date there has always been about the pope a corps of Swiss Guards (cf. Baumgarten, "Katholische Kirche unserer Zeit", I 297 sqq.; "Kirchliche Handlexikon", s.v. "Schweizergarde"). At present the Guards possess a strength of exactly 100 men (including the six officers), who suffice not alone for the complete discharge of the various duties of the corps but also for the maintenance of a watch (formerly essentially more strict and extensive) over the pope during the night. Their old picturesque uniform of black, red, and yellow, in sixteenth-century style, is still retained. A black hat with red strings has recently replaced the very ugly helmet. While exercising, on night watch, or in barracks, the men wear a steel-blue undress uniform, consisting of wider tunic, knee-breeches, dark-blue stockings, and laced boots, but while on guard duty they wear dark-yellow stockings and buckled shoes. On especially solemn occasions both men and officers appear in military uniform with weapons and helmets. The barracks of the Guards lies at the foot of the Palace of Sixtus V. A portion of the building was erected in 1492 during the reign of Alexander VI. The canteen of the Guards furnishes them with their board. The religious privileges of the Guards are very extensive and their regulation pertains to their chaplain who consults the Holy Father in this regard. The care of their other privileges appertains to their commander.

Hope this answers your questions,


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