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A salary of €1,500 a month and other key figures about the Swiss Guard

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected]
A salary of €1,500 a month and other key figures about the Swiss Guard
A newly recruited Swiss Guard swears his allegiance to the Pope on Monday. Photo: AFP

On Monday, 23 new Swiss Guards swore allegiance to the Pope, thus becoming part of a tradition that dates back over half a millennium.


These new Swiss Guards, who must be male, Roman Catholic and Swiss, will have to carry out a range of ceremonial functions. But they are also highly-trained soldiers who are required to carry out a range of standard security duties at the Vatican.

Here are all the key figures you need to know when it comes to what is sometimes described as “the world’s smallest army".

0: This is the number of female Swiss Guards. Although the Swiss Army now has female soldiers, the independent Swiss Guard has no plans to accept women in its ranks.

1.74 metres (5 foot 8 inches): This is the minimum height requirement for a Swiss guard.

19: This is the minimum age for a Swiss Guard. The maximum age is 30. Young men aged 16–19 who are interested in joining the Swiss Guard can also take part in a one-week trial visit to the Vatican to learn more about what the job involves.

Helmets are polished before the swearing in of new Swiss Guards on Monday. Photo: AFP

25: This is the minimum age a Swiss Guard must be to marry. In addition, he must already have been serving the Pope for five years and be committed to serving for another three years. Until recently, only Swiss Guard officers could marry, but the rules have now been changed.

26 months: This is the minimum period of active service at the Vatican for a Swiss Guard  – quite a serious time commitment.

30: This is the number of days of paid leave that Swiss Guards have every year. Guards work six days straight then have three days 'off', although they always have to be available for duty.

32: This is the number of new Swiss Guards sworn in 2018. That is nine more than this year. In fact, the number of new recruits has been down in the last couple of years (it was 40 in 2017). This has prompted concerns over the future of the corps.

Pope Francis passes a member of the Swiss Guard. Photo: AFP

The president of the Foundation of the Guard, former Swiss federal councillor Ruth Metzler-Arnold, said recently the drop in numbers was partly the result of Switzerland’s booming economy (wages for Swiss Guards are low – more on that below). But Metzler-Arnold also noted recruits are now being drawn from years with low birth rates. She stressed that not too much emphasis should be placed on the recent decline in recruits.

135: This is the current maximum number of Swiss Guards. Until recently, it was 110.

147: This is the number of Swiss Guards killed (of a total of 189) while protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on May 6th 1527. The annual swearing in of new Swiss Guards on May 6th commemorates this date.

513 grams: This is the weight of of the new plastic hats for the Swiss Guard. The Austrian-made helmets are manufactured using a 3D printer and are cooler and lighter than the ancient metal helmets which weigh around two kilograms.

One of the new 3D-printed, plastic helmets of the Swiss Guard. Photo: Vatican Media/AFP

1506: This is the year the Swiss Guard was founded. The official date of foundation is given as January 22nd of that year.

€1,500: This is the salary of a Swiss Guard, according to Guard commander Christoph Graf. The soldiers are also provided with free housing while Swiss Guards also get free schooling for their children at the Swiss school in Rome. The fees at this school range from €2,500 to €4,100 francs a year.

€50 million:This is the estimated sum required for the planned construction of new, modern living quarters for the Swiss Guard. Currently Swiss Guards and officers are housed in three crumbling 19th century buildings. A specially-established foundation is currently drumming up funds for the development of the planned new living quarters which have been designed by Swiss architects Durisch+Nolli.

It is hoped that the construction of the new, modern barracks will make signing up as a Swiss Guard more attractive.

An architects' impression of the proposed new Swiss Guard barracks. Photo: Foundation for the Renovation of the Barracks of the Papal Swiss Guard



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