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As the smallest country in the world, it makes sense that the Vatican City also has the world’s smallest army. The Swiss Guard protects the Pope, his residence, and the College of Cardinals when there is no Pope. And while the Vatican City has never had an independent army, the Swiss Guard has de facto filled that role. The Swiss Guard had a more ceremonial role in the past. But since the assassination attempt of John Paul II in 1981, training in unarmed combat and smaller arms plays a bigger role for the Swiss Guard. All recruits must be single male Swiss nationals of the Catholic faith, between 19 and 30 years old, and at least 1.74 m (5 ft 8.5 in) tall.
To get a glimpse of members of the Swiss Guard, check out the entrances to the Vatican City. You really can’t miss them in their colorful uniforms. Note that they’re also multilingual, so don’t hesitate to ask one of them for directions in German, English, or Italian. This might make them one of the most practical tourist attractions in the world. The colors of the uniform depend on where they are stationed. Guards who are posted at the entrance to an office building wear a blue uniform.
Obviously, the Swiss Guard is not the main attraction in Vatican City. There’s so much to see in this tiny country. The Pope, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum are all major reasons for people to visit. But I still think that the world’s smallest army is worth seeing. If only to take a picture or two.
For those who are already in the Vatican City, I think the uniforms of the Swiss Guard that are reminiscent of the Renaissance add a nice pop of color. A trip to the Vatican City can often be exhausting with all the people, the impressive basilica, and the breathtaking art. On my trips to the tiniest country in the world, I felt like the Swiss Guard brightened up the atmosphere. For more activities in Rome check out my tips for fun things to do in Rome.