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Catholic Dictionary




Official police officers and bodyguards of the Pope. Going back to the Swiss soldiers in the service of the Holy See since the fourteenth century, they were formed into a distinct body by Pope Julius II in 1505. Their recruitment is based on the centuries-long agreement between the Holy See and the Catholic civil authorities of Switzerland. The most memrable event in their history was their noble defense of Pope Clement VII during the sack of Rome in 1527, when one hundred forty-seven were killed and only forty-two reached safety with the Pope in Castel Sant'Angelo. Their function is mainly to protect the person of the Pope and to guard the apostolic palaces, especially their outside entrances.