Monday, November 4, 2019

Stand of the Swiss Guards 1527 CE

Swiss Guards are mercenaries — paid fighters from one country in the employ of another country. This practice was very common in the sixteenth century. While Swiss soldiers had been used by the popes since the late 14th century, it was not until the pontificate of Julius ii (1503–13) that the Papal Swiss Guard was officially formed.

When Pope Clement VII sought to change his alliance from the Holy Roman Empire to the French, an Italian War ensued. The Holy Roman Empire prevailed in northern Italy but the largely Lutheran mercenary force had yet to be paid. They threatened to mutiny unless they could sack and plunder Rome.

May 6, 1527: Lutheran mercenaries of the Holy Roman Empire, having mutinied against their Emperor and pillaged their way across much of northern Italy, arrive at the city of Rome.

At the time, the city had almost no defenses; the ancient walls were in disrepair, and Pope Clement VII's call to arms was answered by only 500 men of the city. The Pontifical Swiss Guard had been called out. The 189 Swiss guards stood their ground against the thousands of attackers.

This stand gave the Pope and his entourage time to escape across the Passetto di Borgo. Of the 189 Swiss Guards, 42 guards managed to sneak the Pope through the secret passage, the “Passetto”, to safety in the fortress Castel Sant’Angelo.

The remainder, under Captain Kaspar Röist, made their stand near the Teutonic College next to the Basilica – less than 150 Swiss against 20,000 Germans and Spaniards.

Wave after wave of Lutheran troops rushed the stoic Swiss, only to be driven back time and time again. The avenues leading to the Guards' position became so choked with the dead that their living comrades were funneled dangerously into narrow back alleys and side streets, where their superior numbers counted for nothing.

The Swiss Guards were killed to the last man; Röist himself was the last to fall. Of the 20,000 men who had invaded the city, the Protestants suffered an estimated 15,000 casualties. 147 Swiss Guards had died, but they had reduced the Imperial army to only a quarter of its initial fighting strength.

The last stand of the Swiss Guard allowed Pope Clement VII time to escape the Vatican, and it weakened and demoralized the mutineers to such an extent that they could not hold the city.
Stand of the Swiss Guards 1527 CE

Articles from other webs