Have you ever heard this story? It’s absolutely amazing!
Every year on May 6th, the Vatican swears in new Swiss guards. But why on May 6th?
The ancient story dates back to the 16the century’s Sack of Rome during the Italian Wars on May 6, 1527.
That morning during an attack led by Captain General Bourbon at the Torrione Gate in Rome, the captain was very seriously wounded.
Because of captain’s hesitation, Spanish mercenaries barricaded through the gate, while German lansquenets invaded Borgo and St. Peter’s Basilica. Approximately 20,000 Lutheran mercenaries participated in this invasion against 189 Swiss guards and 5000 citizens/militia.
According to the Vatican’s website, the Swiss Guards stood firm through this invasion “at the foot of the obelisk (now in St. Peter’s Square, but then near the German cemetery within the Vatican close to the Basilica), together with the few remnants of the Roman troops, resisted desperately.”
The Spaniards killed the papacy’s Swiss Guard Captain Kaspar Röist “in his quarters in front of his wife.”
Only 42 of the 189 guards survived the attack.
These survivors were “the ones who, when all was lost, under the command of Hercules Göldli guarded Pope Clement VII’s retreat to safety in Castel Sant’Angelo. The rest fell gloriously, massacred together with two hundred fugitives, on the steps of the High Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Pope Clement VII and his men were able to escape to safety, thanks to the ‘Passetto’, a secret corridor which Pope Alexander VI had built along the top of the wall connecting the Vatican with Castel Sant’Angelo.”
Although this may seem like a terrible loss for the Swiss Guards, they were up against 20,000 professional troops. Only 5,000 of the Lutheran mercenaries’ troops remained after the battle.
The Vatican swears in new Swiss Guards every year on May 6th in memory of the Last Stand of the Swiss Guards.
As the Vatican website explains, “this date, which in 1527 was a day of death, today, is a day of life, because each year on this day, the new recruits take their solemn oath of loyalty.”
Here’s a video from the 2017 Swiss Guard Swearing In Ceremony:
St. Martin of Tours , St. Sebastian, and St. Niklaus von Flüe are the patron saints of the Swiss Guard.