Military of Vatican City

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The State of the Vatican City lies entirely within Rome, the capital of Italy. Therefore, its military defense is provided by Italy. Vatican City has no armed forces. Vatican City does have within its borders the Pontifical Swiss Guard or Swiss Guard (sometimes termed mercenaries). The Swiss Guard is a small force maintained by the Holy See and is responsible for the safety of the Pope, including the security of the Apostolic Palace and access to the entrances to the city-state. It serves as the de facto if not de jure military of Vatican City. The Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City is a civilian force maintained by the Vatican City. The Vatican has never been involved in war in any major way and has only seen anything close to military action once when it was bombed during World War II.

Historically, a number of other units existed. The Noble Guard and the Palatine Guard were abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1970.


Pontifical Swiss Guard

The Corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard or Swiss Guard (Ger: Schweizergarde, Ital. Guardia Svizzera Pontificia, Lat. Pontificia Cohors Helvetica or Cohors Pedestris Helvetiorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis) is a small force responsible for the safety of the Pope, including the security of the Apostolic Palace.

List of former Vatican military units

  • Corsican Guard, the papal militia (abolished in 1860).
  • Papal Zouaves, one of the regiments comprising the army of the Papal States prior to the occupation of Rome in 1870 (abolished in 1870).
  • Noble Guard, the papal horse guards (abolished in 1970).
  • Palatine Guard, the papal militia (abolished in 1970).
  • Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City, border patrol and military police (abolished in 1970). A new unit with exactly the same name was established in 2002 and operates with a strength of 130 personnel. However, this new unit, while carrying out very similar functions to the original, is officially classified as a civilian force (along with the Vatican Fire Brigade) rather than a military force.

Officers' ranks

Since 1970, the Pontifical Swiss Guard has been the only active military of the Vatican City. The officers' rank markings illustrated here are those of the Swiss Guard. The Chaplain of the Guard ranks as a Lieutenant Colonel. The Commandant (who holds the rank of Colonel) is a senior member of the Papal Household, and his personal coat of arms or emblem appears at the centre of the Standard of the Swiss Guard for the duration of his command.

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