The Swiss Guards

Switzerland – neutral and peaceful. How come the Swiss are responsible for protecting the most important figure of the Catholic Church? And who would have thought that in fact, the Swiss people used to be among the most aggressive and war-going people in Europe? The fact that we guard the Vatican City has nothing to do with our neutrality, on the contrary…

When Roman Emperor Julius Caesar invaded the Swiss territories, he described them in his books “de bello gallico” as “the bravest among all Gaul tribes” and “the only to fight the Germanics”. And that’s basically what we did for centuries: In the middle ages, many wars were fought by the Swiss not only between themselves, but also against German and Austrian noble houses. Thanks to some crushing victories, the Swiss soldiers gained a reputation as strong and skilled warriors – the ones you would want in your own army. From the 15th up to the 19th century, the Swiss decided to make a good use of their reputation: they became mercenaries.

Swiss mercenariesOne reason for their success was their fierce fighting tactics: A wall of long spears and pikes keeps the enemy away until they are able to create a small gap in their line. That’s when soldiers with halberdiers push through that gap and break the enemy line . This technique, roughly translated as “force-pile” (“Gewalthaufen” in German) made them so successful, it became popular for rulers all over Europe to have Swiss mercenaries in their armies. Continue reading The Swiss Guards