The project to rebuild the Swiss Guard barracks in Rome is beginning to materialize. The overall plan and funding seem to be secure. Work can therefore begin on the scheduled date.
The Swiss Guard has been carrying out its mission of protecting the Pope and the Holy See since January 22, 1506, when it was founded by Pope Julius II. It is made up of 110 soldiers, of Swiss nationality - which is an essential condition.
The barracks occupied by “the smallest army in the world” were built in the 19th century. The buildings have aged and various more or less worrying deficiencies have manifested themselves: the developed spaces no longer meet current needs and there is a persistent and pervasive general humidity. These can only be corrected through reconstruction.
This is especially true since the Vatican authorities have planned two fairly important changes: an increase in the strength by 25 soldiers - the total number rising to 135, and a relaxation of the rules regarding marriage for the guards, which will entail the need to provide for additional places for families.
As the current buildings have no historical or architectural value, the reconstruction solution was adopted. However, it should be noted that two sites should be preserved: the Passetto, the fortified and elevated passage that links St. Peter's Square to Castel Sant’Angelo, which witnessed Pope Clement VII’s flight on May 6, 1527; as well as the main courtyard with its fountain.
From an architectural point of view, the objectives of the project are as follows: increase the number of rooms and create apartments for families; improve the quality of the accommodations; create premises that are more pleasant, efficient and secure for the guard; upgrade the buildings; integrate sustainable criteria and environmental compatibility.
From the financing point of view, the cost has now been established at 50 million Swiss francs, including the relocation of the guards during the implementation of the project. A fundraiser was organized, which to date has reached 27 million Swiss francs.
For its part, the Swiss Confederation has agreed to support the project to the tune of five million francs, as part of the centenary of the resumption of official relations between Switzerland and the Holy See, after an interruption between 1873 and 1920, because of the Kulturkampf.
From the point of view of the actual construction, the site should open in 2023, and the inauguration is scheduled for May 6, 2027, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 500 years of the Sack of Rome, which saw the sacrifice of 147 guards Swiss to allow the escape of Pope Clement VII.