A colorful unit with a great history. The Swiss Confederation was a powerful factor in world politics in the years around 1500. Its belligerent people had humiliated Charles the Brave, Duke of Burgundy, and its mercenaries – loyal and courageous, as the saying went – were much sought-after by the courts of Europe and expensively paid for their services. Shortly after his assumption of office, the great Renaissance pope Julius II della Rovere (1503-1513) – aided by his store of gold ducats as well as Cardinal Matthew Schiner from the Valais – managed to get the Swiss Confederation to rescind its alliance with the King of France and draw this its ally into the war for Upper Italy. At the same time Pope Julius, who was beset by fears for his personal safety, made arrangements to establish his own bodyguard, consisting of Swiss mercenaries. 150 of these mercenaries arrived in Rome on January 22, 1506. They have been protecting the Pope ever since. The young Guard experienced a dramatic baptism of fire during the Sack of Rome on May 6, 1527. While the Eternal City was being pillaged by a leaderless rabble of German and Spanish troops, 147 members of the Guard paid for defending their lord with their lives. Among the dead was their commander, Kaspar Roist. Though fully informed about the imminent danger, his sense of duty had caused him to disobey the order to resign his papal assignment which had been given by his seniors in Zurich, who had already converted to the Protestant faith. Commander Roist was killed in front of his wife by the Spaniards – but Pope Clement VII Medici was able to save his life by escaping to the St. Angel Castle. The heroic sacrifice of the Swiss Guard came to form the heart of their legend. Even today, the active Guard remembers the heroic sacrifice of its predecessors every May 6th, when the new recruits are sworn in. At the ceremony, the young recruit to the Guard solemnly pledges to give up his life for the pope if necessary.