Need a New Gig? The Pontifical Swiss Guard is Hiring

| Mon, 09/05/2022 - 16:09
Swiss Guards

Calling all young men: The world’s smallest army charged with “protecting and serving” the Pope and the Holy See wants you. 

Watching over the Pontiff and the Vatican for over 500 years, the Swiss Guard is the smallest army of the smallest city-state in the world. 

In 2018, Pope Francis announced that the Swiss Guards would expand from 110 to 135 members, making it necessary to step up recruitment efforts. 

In hopes of attracting new draftees, officials in Switzerland announced they would be adding a press office, a consultant with communications expertise, and a multimillion-euro renovation plan for outdated barracks, all in hopes of sweetening the pot for potential enlistees.

The first brigade of what would be later known as the Swiss Guard arrived in Rome in 1506, at the behest and blessing of Pope Julius II. In 1527, after losing a majority of their body in the Sacking of Rome, the depleted Helvetian army was temporarily replaced with 200 German mercenaries. Ten years on, Pope Paul III ordered the reinstatement of the Swiss Guard, but anti-papal sentiment in Switzerland stymied applicant turnout. By the 16th century, relations had warmed and the Swiss Guard was eventually replenished.

At the signing of the Lateran Treaty declaring Vatican City an independent state under the sovereignty of the Holy See, the Swiss Guard was effectively downgraded from a foreign army to a Vatican-only security police force.

Today, the main role of the Swiss Guard (besides enforcing strict dress codes of visitors entering St Peter’s and providing Instagrammable memories to tourists) continues to be the preservation and safety of the Pontiff at home and away — whether it be across town or halfway around the world.

Becoming a Swiss Guard is no piece of cake.

Applications are open to unmarried (code for "celibate") male high school graduates, between the ages of 19 and 30, who are both practicing Catholics and Swiss citizens. Additionally, candidates must be found to have a clean “moral” record, stand at least five-feet, eight-inches tall, and commit to serving a minimum of 26 months. (Although there’s been talk over the years of recruiting women, the close quarters in which the guards live make it unlikely women will be joining the ranks anytime soon).

After meeting the basic criteria, there’s a series of physical and psychological exams, followed by a rigorous, two-part training program in Switzerland and Rome. Those lucky enough to make it “all the way” get the honor of wearing the iconic blue-, red-, orange-, and yellow-striped uniform with a silver helmet topped with a red, white, yellow, black or purple ostrich plume. For plebes, it’s a “feather in their cap”.

Each year on May 6 — coinciding with that fateful day in 1527 — a swearing-in ceremony of the “new” guards takes place at the Vatican’s Cortile di San Damaso.

To find out more about becoming a Swiss Guard, go to the recruitment page on their official website or contact the Head of Recruitment, Bernhard Messmer, at (All communications must be in German, French or Italian.)