Vatican City, May 6, 2020 / 10:47 am
The annual swearing-in of new Swiss Guards, which would usually take place May 6, was moved to Oct. 4 because of the coronavirus.
Instead, the Pontifical Swiss Guards marked Wednesday’s anniversary of the Sack of Rome with private, more muted celebrations, lacking the presence of guests and streamed over the internet.
The Swiss Guards marked the 493rd anniversary of the May 6, 1527 battle with Mass in the church of Santa Maria of the Pieta in the Teutonic College, followed by the “laying of the wreath,” in the Square of the Roman Protomartyrs in Vatican City.
Afterward, the commander of the Swiss Guards conferred papal honorifics on 15 guards.
After Mass, all but the newest members of the world’s smallest-but-oldest standing army marched to Square of the Roman Protomartyrs, so-named for being the site of the death of several early Christian martyrs, including St. Peter.
The Commander of the Swiss Guards, Christoph Graf, gave a speech at the ceremony in which he recounted the story of the 1527 battle known as the Sack of Rome, when 147 guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII from mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Empire.
During the battle, the pope was able to escape from the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo via a secret passageway connecting the two. It is the most significant and deadly event in the history of the Swiss Guards.
After the speech, a large wreath was placed in the square in commemoration of the guards who died during the battle.