The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

A Papal Noble Guard

A Papal Noble Guard

A carte-de-visite portrait of a Papal Noble Guard.

The Noble Guard [Italian: Guardia Nobile] was one of the guard units of the Vatican. It was formed by Pope Pius VII in 1801 as a regiment of heavy cavalry. Initially, the regiment was tasked with providing escort for the Pope and other senior Princes of the Church, and missions within the Papal States at the behest of the pope. One of their first major duties was to escort Pius VII to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte. With the unification of Italy and the confiscation of the Papal States in 1870, the Noble Guard became a corps of foot guards.

The corps was a volunteer one; its members were not paid for their service, and had to pay for their own equipment. The commander of the corps was called the Captain. One of the subordinate positions within the corps was that of Hereditary Standard-Bearer, who was responsible for carrying the standard of the Catholic Church.

The Noble Guard made its appearance in public only when the pope took part in a public function; when the pope withdrew, he was followed by the Noble Guard. During a vacancy of the Holy See, the corps stood at the service of the College of Cardinals. During the Second World War, the Noble Guard shared responsibility with the Swiss Guard for the personal security of Pope Pius XII. For instance, when the Pope took his daily walk in the Vatican Gardens, two Noble Guardsmen followed at a distance.

The guard was abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as part of the reforms of the Church following Vatican II.

Photographer unidentified.

Code: 122722
  Back           Home Contact   
© Paul Frecker 2018