He gets to see the Pope all the time, he says, and tells what the Pope insists on for those who stand guard outside his room at night
“We are going to swear before God that we are ready to give our lives for the protection of the Holy Father,” explains Marvin, who has been a soldier in the Pontifical Swiss Guard for about eight months. This Friday, May 6, 2022, in the courtyard of St. Damasus in the Vatican, he takes the oath of fidelity before Pope Francis and all the officers to officially join the Corps of this famous little army.
On May 6, 1527, in the face of attacks by the soldiers of Charles V, the Swiss mercenaries—called up for the first time by Julius II in 1505—protected the tomb of St. Peter and organized Pope Clement VII’s escape to Castel Sant’Angelo. It is in memory of this brilliant action of the “soldiers of the pope” that the new guards take their oath on this historic day of May 6.
“It will be great; we’ve trained very hard for today,” says the French-speaking Swiss man from Lausanne.
For all the guards who will take the oath tonight at 5:00 pm, it’s “a very important moment.” Marvin’s parents have come from Switzerland to attend this event that is so important to their son. “I have to say that I can’t wait for it to be over and for us to go to dinner,” says the 24-year-old with a laugh. The preparation for the swearing-in was very tiring: “Putting on the cuirass, handling the halberd, doing laps of the garden carrying all of that around—all that on top of the service…” he lists.
Arriving eight months ago with some apprehensions, including leaving his family behind, Marvin adapted very quickly and learned to love his mission as the Pope’s protector. “It’s a great way to deepen my faith,” he says, saying that he learns new things “every day,” thanks in part to the chaplain of the guard, a man who is “truly extraordinary.”
On a daily basis, what makes him happy is above all his contact with the people and especially with the “pilgrims who come to visit St. Peter’s Basilica.” The military aspect of the service as well as life in Rome are “of course” an additional motivation, he admits.
“I came to serve the Pope, this particular Pope,” says the guard, with a sure look in his eyes, “because he’s a good person.” Marvin is well aware that he serves the head of the Catholic Church, and he looks forward to being close to him. “You see him all the time, but you really have to do a specific service to be able to shake his hand and talk to him,” he says.
And the soldier tells us: “Not long ago I had to do my night shift outside his room. In the morning when he came out, he asked me if I’d eaten and I told him I hadn’t. If we don’t eat at night, the Pope is annoyed, He’s a bit like a grandfather to us.”
Beyond the Vatican, Marvin’s mission is much admired. He knows it and hasn’t forgotten his roots: “Switzerland is very proud of us because we are the only mercenaries who still remain today. We must be aware of that.”
Moreover, the atmosphere at the guard is almost family-like. “It’s not an atmosphere you find everywhere else,” he assures us. It has been a promising experience, therefore, and he has “practically decided” to commit himself for a third year in the Pontifical Swiss Guard, in the service of the Pope and the Church.