Swiss Guards mark 500 years with Pope
The Vatican's Swiss Guard will celebrate its 500th anniversary in 2005-06 with events including a month-long 850 km march from Switzerland to Rome to recreate the arrival of the first contingent.
About 100 former members of the corps are expected to take part in the march, which will begin in April 2006 in the Swiss city of Bellinzona, just over the border from Italy.
The commander of the Swiss Guards, Col. Elmar Theodor Mader, and a top Swiss military official, Lt. Gen. Beat Fischer, commander of the Swiss Army mountain corps, outlined the anniversary plans at a news conference yesterday.
The Swiss Guards were founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. Currently numbering about 110, they help protect the pope, guard the entrances to Vatican City and the Apostolic Palace, where the pope lives, and perform honor guard duties at Vatican ceremonies. They are noted for their colourful uniforms: yellow-and-blue striped uniforms and red-plumed helmets.
Swiss Guards serve a minimum of two years. This year's 33 recruits will be inducted at a formal Vatican ceremony tomorrow. To be eligible, candidates must be Swiss, male, Catholic, between 19 and 30, at 170 cm tall and have an "irreproachable"' reputation.
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5 May 2004