Saturday, January 20, 2007

Vatican Soldiers

Churchill once tried to explain the political importance of the Vatican and the importance of having the Church as an ally against Germany and Stalin gave the oft quoted reply "How many divisions has Pius XII?"

In truth, Pius XII had at least one according to a Time magazine report I stumbled across from 1944. It says the Vatican had:

Mobilized a "special defense corps" estimated at 2,000 men to guard Vatican property in Rome.

Acquired a fleet of 21 coastal ships to bring food to the "hard-pressed people of Rome and Vatican City." The ships will operate between Rome and Genoa, flying the Vatican flag.†

Other defense measures taken during the past six months: 1) increase of the efficient, well-equipped Swiss Guards from 100 to 600 men; 2) increase of the Pontifical Military Guard (papal gendarmes, who ordinarily police palace and gardens) from 800 to 3,300 men; 3) quadrupling the Palatine Guard of Honor to 2,000 men. This small army has been equipped with modern weapons. The Vatican walls have been prepared for machine-gun defense "should the occasion arise."

†The small Vatican flag has two equal vertical stripes, yellow and white, carries the papal insignia. Until 1860 the Vatican had a small armed navy, used chiefly against pirates. (AWESOME!! VATICAN NAVY VS. PIRATES!!)

I couldn't find too many photos of these soldiers online, all but the Swiss Guard were abolished by Paul VI in 1970 (oh brother) so here are some for you (click for a larger view):

The Papal Gendarmes (being inspected by Charles de Gaulle:

The Noble Guard (as the name suggests made up of only Noblemen) they were also a horse guard I believe:

The Palatine Guard, the main body of the Pope's forces, all volunteers:

and of course, the Swiss guard:

1 comment:

eniksleestack said...

Hey, thanks for visiting my site! This is quite a cool site, too. I'm a history instructor and buff, so I'll have to find some room in my brain to store this new (and unusual) info about the Vactican military during World War Two. Keep it up!