The Pontifical Swiss guard is a group of Swiss Guards that have the specific task of guarding the Vatican City State and the Pope. Therefore a Pontifical Swiss guard is sometimes referred to as a Vatican Swiss guard. The Pontifical Swiss guards protect the Pope and therefore their main area of operation is in the Vatican which is home to the Roman Catholic Pope. When tourists enter the City of Vatican, they are normally directed by a Vatican Swiss guard.
The Pontifical Swiss guards are known for their helmets and unique striped uniforms and they have become one of the symbols of the Vatican. In the past Rome, Italy was not a unified city. It was often attacked by outsiders. Due to the fact that Vatican City is in the center of Rome and the Pope's household was situated there, the life of Pope was constantly exposed to danger. This is what led to the establishment of the Pontifical Swiss guard. The environment in which the Pope lived was hostile and therefore there was a great need to ensure that the Pope is safe and well protected.
Following an alliance with the Swiss confederation the first group of the Pontifical Swiss guards was welcomed into Vatican City on the 22nd of January, 1506 by Pope Julius II. The group contained 150 guards. These guards were commanded by Captain Kasparvon Silenen. Ever since, the Swiss guards have served as the Vatican police force.
Not anyone can qualify to be a Vatican Swiss guard. There are requirements which must be met for you to qualify as a Vatican guard. First, you must be a Catholic, you must have a Swiss citizenship, and you must be a single male aged between 19 to 30 years. You must have completed basic training with the Swiss military and you should be able to obtain a certificate of good conduct. Candidates must also have a high school diploma or a professional degree, should be at least 174 cm. If someone wants to be chosen as a Swiss guard he must go through a process of application. There were suggestions that female candidates be considered for recruitment as Swiss guards. This is not yet a possibility but that maybe it will be in the future. The guards are allowed to marry after serving for some years at the Vatican.
The Vatican Swiss guards have official uniforms of blue, red, orange and yellow colors. The uniforms are tailored inside the Pontifical Swiss Guard barracks. The guards also have some equipment: both traditional and modern arms including a sword, command baton, flamberge, partisan, cuirass with spaudlers, etc.
The Pontifical Swiss guards also perform ceremonial duties. Because of on their responsibilities at the Vatican City, the role of the Vatican police is very crucial to the operation of the Vatican. When you enter the gates of Vatican City, you will meet the Vatican Swiss guard who will check you and give you directions on where you want to go. The guards also work closely with the Pope. During the public masses, these guards are the ones responsible for the overall security of the Pope.