This blog, written by Thomas E. Rutledge, focuses primarily on business entity law in Kentucky. Postings on contract law, contractual and statutory construction, and the entity law of other jurisdictions appear as well. There may as well be some random discussions of classical, medieval and renaissance history.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The Sack of Rome and The Papal Swiss Guard
of Rome and The Papal Swiss Guard
Today marks the anniversary of the Sack
of Rome in 1527 by troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Since the late 15th Century Italy (or
at least the region we today identify as Italy – the notion of the region as a
nation was long in the future) had been repeatedly invaded by forces from
Northern Europe, each seeking to claim dominion over one area or another. Rival
claimants to the crown of Naples caused as much trouble as did anything, but
economic rivalry between for example Genoa and Venice did nothing to calm the
waters.Pope Alexander VI gave command
of the papal army to his son/nephew (which is a matter of dispute) Cesare in
order to bring some order, and Pope Julius II would actually don armor and lead
his army into battle, again in an effort to bring some stability to the
But back to the Sack of Rome.Charles’ forces were at this point battling
the League of Cognac, it being comprised of France, Milan, Venice, Florence and
the Papal States (keeping track of the various Leagues through the Italian Wars
is a troubling task; the League of Cambrai was initially formed against Venice
by the Papacy, France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. Later the initial
members would be allied against France with Venice as an ally. Later Venice and
France would be against the Papacy, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire). After a
significant victory over the French army the troops were restive in that they
had not been paid – most were mercenary. Pillaging Rome would be a way of
paying the troops. The city was not well defended, although its formidable
walls did need to be and were breached.Their commander having fallen in the course of the attack, discipline
immediately broke down among the troops and a sack of over three days began.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard, created
only in 1506 under Pope Julius II, rose to the occasion. Of its then number of
189, 147 would fall defending Pope Clement VII, affording him time to take
refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian’s Mausoleum). In recognition of this
event, new members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are sworn in on May 6.Earlier today, in the continuation of that tradition,
Pope Francis I officiated at the swearing in of a number of new Swiss Guards.
There was in 2013 an event unique to the
Guard, namely the recognition of a Pope’s retirement. Benedict XVI left the
Vatican as Pope, flying to the Castle Gandolfo. The Swiss Guard accompanied him
to the castle and there stood guard. When the moment his resignation became
effective, and Benedict became not Pope but Pope Emeritus, the Guards left
their station at the castle and returned to Rome. While the Vatican has its
security forces, and they no doubt continued to provide protection for
Benedict, the Swiss Guard serve the Pope.
Of course this was not the only sack of
Rome – it had fallen many times in its long history. It fell to the Normans in
1084, in 546 by the Ostrogoths, in 455 by the Vandals, in 410 by the Visigoths
and in 387 BC by the Gauls.