New members of the Swiss Guard taking oath in the Vatican – Sir Antonio la Salandra became Knight of KMFAP
On the 6th May 2019 a solemn ceremony took place in the courtyard of Cortile San Damaso – next to the legendary Vatican library – where 23 new members of the Swiss Guard took oath. Beside the High Priests and high-ranking representatives of the Vatican, the Swiss and Italian Governments, the representatives of the Swiss cantons, the Swiss Army Chief Commander and senior officers, as well as the members of the Italian Diplomatic Corps were invited to this significant event. 

The inauguration of the new guards was preceded by a Mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica that morning. The traditional oath – in the four official languages of the Swiss Confederation – takes place on this very same day each year in memory of the bloody event on the 6th May 1527. 
The day has entered the history as Sacco di Rome (Sack of Rome), a military event carried out in Rome by the mutinous troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. During this day 147 Swiss soldiers were massacred out of the 189 Papal Swiss Guards in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, while protecting Pope Clement VII, allowing him to reach the Angel Castle intact. 

Historical fact that Pope Clement VII was concerned with the Italian expansion of Charles V, Spanish and German king /from 1530 Roman Emperor/, fearing that the king would unite the Italian peninsula at the expense of the Papal State. In 1527, the emperor sent mercy to Italy under the command of Charles de Bourbon. The imperial army of about 35,000 was made up of Spanish, Italian and German mercenaries, while the troops defending Rome were not at all numerous, consisting of 5,000 militiamen and 189 Papal Swiss Guard. The city’s fortifications included the massive walls, and it possessed a good artillery force, which the Imperial army lacked. Duke Charles needed to conquer the city swiftly, to avoid the risk of being trapped between the besieged city and the League’s army. 
 On the 6th of May, the Imperial army attacked the weakly fortified walls near the Vatican. Although Duke Charles was fatally wounded in the assault, the attackers managed to get into the Borgo. The death of the last respected command authority among the Imperial army caused any restraint in the soldiers to disappear, and they easily captured Rome. 
 In the event known as the Stand of the Swiss Guard, the Swiss, alongside the garrison’s remnant, made their last stand in the Teutonic Cemetery within the Vatican. Their captain, Kaspar Röist, was wounded and later sought refuge in his house, where he was killed by Spanish soldiers in front of his wife. The Swiss Guard fought bitterly, but were immensely outnumbered and almost annihilated. Some survivors, accompanied by a band of refugees, fell back to the Basilica steps. Those who went toward the Basilica were massacred, and only 42 survived. 
This group of 42, under the command of Hercules Göldli, managed to stave off the Habsburg troops pursuing the Pope’s entourage as it made its way across the Passetto di Borgo, which was a secret corridor that still connects the Vatican City to Castel Sant’Angelo. 
 By the evening the Imperial army had the whole of Rome. After the brutal execution of some 1,000 defenders of the Papal capital and shrines, the pillage began. Churches and monasteries, as well as the palaces of prelates and cardinals, were looted and destroyed. The mercenaries murdered, plundered and raped for eight days. Contemporary descriptions recorded the terrible destruction and mercilessness. 

In addition to hundreds of invited guests and family members, this year, H.G. Prof. George Popper, KGC – Lieutenant General and Prime Minister of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, Federation of the Autonomous Priories (KMFAP) and his wife were invited as VIP guests to attend this prestigious, very spectacular and historic event, on which the number of Swiss Guard’s members rose to 135. 

Our grateful thanks for the invitation to this exclusive event to Dr. Antonio la Salandra, who – during the 513-year history of the Swiss Guard, founded in 1506 – is the only non-Swiss but Italian instructor of the Papal Guard. Through his professional and human qualities, Antonio has gained great prestige among the guards over the past eight years, ever since he began training them. 

Sir Antonio la Salandra became member of the Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta 

On the occasion of the Swiss Guard event, one of Rome’s most prestigious hotels and event centres, Hotel Parco dei Principi – in the neighbourhood of the magnificent Villa Borghese – was the venue of a solemn and intimate celebration, during which H.G. Prof. George Popper – Lieutenant General of KMFAP awarded Dr. Antonio la Salandra with the Knight Cross of Malta, in the presence of Sir Giacomo Spartaco Bertoletti – Prior of Lombardy. With this decoration, Dr. Antonio la Salandra became full member of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (KMFAP). Upon receiving the award, Sir Antonio promised to play an active role also in the training of the Magisterial State Guard members of the Knights of Malta. 

Dear Sir Antonio, 
our heartfelt congratulations on the award, to which you are worthy based on your merits! We are convinced that with your personality you can contribute much to the effective work of the Italian Grand Priory! 

 28th May 2019