An upcoming renovation to the Swiss Guard barracks could open the door to women joining the ranks. The new housing center has been planned to accommodate both men and women. Representatives of the Swiss Guard have noted that the new layout will also make it easier to attend to COVID-19 concerns.
Reuters reports that the current barracks is more than 150 years old and the renovations will bring the building up to modern day standards. The project, expected to begin in 2026, is estimated to cost 45 million Swiss Francs ($46 million). Funds for the job will be raised by the Foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.
In a statement, foundation representative Riccardo Boscardin noted that the renovations will include the installation of “single rooms with private bathrooms.” Boscardin went on to explain the reasons behind the change:
“There are two reasons. One is because COVID hit when the project started and the second is the possibility of integrating women into the guard,” Boscardin said.
Boscardin was, however, quick to note that the Swiss Guard cannot unilaterally choose to admit female members. This decision would have to be made by Pope Francis or one of his successors. At any rate, the Swiss Guard’s quarters will be prepared if the change were to come.
The work is expected to create more comfortable and eco-friendly housing for the Swiss Guard. According to VOA News, the original building is considered a historical landmark and extra care will be taken to maintain the facade during construction.
Plans for the project began in 2016, but have only recently been formalized. The work will commence after the 2025 Holy Year, in order not to disrupt the duties of the Swiss Guard. The Holy Year is expected to bring millions of tourists to Vatican City.