July 1, 2015

1706 VATICAN CITY - A halbardier of the Pontifical Swiss Guard guarding the statue of Saint Peter Enthroned

As the Vatican City is an enclave within Italy, its military defence is provided by the Italian armed forces, so it has no armed forces of its own. The Palatine Guard and the Noble Guard, the last armed forces of the Vatican City, were disbanded by Pope Paul VI in 1970. The Swiss Guard is a military corps of the Holy See responsible for the personal security of the Pope. At the end of 2005, the Guard had 134 members. Swiss mercenaries were historically recruited by Popes as part of an army for the Papal States, and the Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II on 22 January 1506 as the pope's personal bodyguard. Recruitment is arranged by a special agreement between the Holy See and Switzerland.

All recruits must be Catholic, unmarried males with Swiss citizenship who have completed their basic training with the Swiss Army with certificates of good conduct, be between the ages of 19 and 30, and be at least 174cm in height. Members are equipped with small arms and the traditional halberd, and trained in bodyguarding tactics. The official dress uniform, created by Commandant Jules Repond in 1914, is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. Blue and yellow were issued by Pope Julius II taking his family (Della Rovere) colors, and red was added by Pope Leo X , to reflect his family's  Medici colors.

The ordinary guardsmen and the sub-corporals wear the "tricolor" uniform without any rank distinctions except for a different model of halberd in gala dress. All lower ranks have red feathers on their helmets. The senior non-commissioned and warrant officers have a different type of uniformas, also the commissioned officers. Headwear is typically a black beret for daily duties, while a black or silver morion helmet with red, white, yellow and black, and purple ostrich feathers is worn for ceremonial duties.

The Statue of St. Peter Enthroned is placed in a small chapel on the northwestern corner of the nave of Saint Peter's Basilica. Most scholars attribute the statue to Arnolfo di Cambio (1245-1302), based on the analysis and the dating of the bronze alloy made by Bruno Bearzi in 1957, but also because of the style of the piece. Others dates it to the 5th century, claiming that is based on an antique statue of a philosopher and in the past it stood in the Atrium of Old St. Peter’s. In the postcard the statue is outfitted with Triregno and Cope for the Feast of the Chair of Peter (February 22).

About the stamp

Lazio: Saint Peter Enthroned - UVM Digital Exhibits
Swiss Guard - Wikipedia

Sent from Vatican City on 12.04.2014

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