Palatine Guard

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The Palatine Guard () was a military unit of the Vatican. It was formed in 1850 by Pope Pius IX, who ordered that the two militia units of the Papal States be amalgamated. The corps was formed as an infantry unit, and took part in watch-keeping in Rome as well as various battles, including the defense of Rome against soldiers from Piedmont.


After 1870 and the unification of Italy, the corps was confined to Vatican City where they performed ceremonial functions as a guard of honor. The Palatine Guard were usually seen either when the Pope was in Saint Peter's Square, or when a Head of State or other important visitors were received by the Pope. Members of the corps were volunteers, who were not paid for their service, though they received an allowance for replacement or repair of their uniforms. The unit lacked modern weapons and the guardsmen received little training beyond drill in marching and presenting arms. David Alvarez, The Pope's Soldiers: A Military History of the Modern Vatican (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2011), pp.263-264 The corps was also the only one in the service of the Vatican to have a full military band.

The Second World War was a high point in the history of the Palatine Guard. In September 1943, when German troops occupied Rome in response to Italy's conclusion of an armistice with the Allies, the Guard was given the responsibility of protecting Vatican City, various Vatican properties in Rome, and the...
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