Monday, January 29, 2007

Lives in Letters: Audience with the Pope

Here's another postcard sent to my great-great Aunt Jean, but this one about 40 years later than the one I showed last week. Aunt Jean was still a live-in nanny, and was spending the summer with her "family" up in Bar Harbor, Maine. Her friends and coworkers, meanwhile, were travelling to slightly more exotic places.

Guardia Suizzera
Citta del Vaticano
August, 1954

Addressed to
Miss Jean F-
Porcupine House
Bar Harbor, Maine, U.S.A

Dear Jeannie,
This is the Swiss
guard at St. Peters.
We had a private
audience with
the Pope this
morning which
was very exciting.
I'm having a
terrific time and
am going to
Capri tomorrow.
Give my best to Evaline
+ the cook.


I've seen the Swiss Guard at St. Peter's a few times, and they're always dressed like this. Here are some things you might not know about the Swiss Guard, courtesy of wikipedia.
  • They are mercenaries.
  • In 1927, the Swiss outlawed the use of Swiss soldiers in any foreign armies, however the Papal Swiss Guard was left as the exception.
  • Members of the Swiss Guard must be Catholic, single, age 19 to 30 upon joining, and at least 5 ft 9. They serve from 2 to 25 years.
  • 2006 was the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guard.
  • The uniform of the Swiss Guard was designed in 1914. The colors represent a blending of the family colors of Pope Julius II and Pope Leo X.
  • They are not to be messed with. They may look cute and even a bit silly, but they are well trained soldiers who will take you down if need be.
  • When sworn in, the Swiss Guard take the following oath (translated from German):
I swear to faithfully, honestly and honorably serve the reigning Pope [name of Pope] and his legitimate successors, and to dedicate myself to them with all my strength, ready to sacrifice, should it become necessary, even my own life for them. I likewise assume this promise toward the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals during the period of the Sede Vacante of the Apostolic See. Furthermore, I pledge to the Commandant and to my other superiors respect, fidelity, and obedience. I swear to abide by all the requirements attendant to the dignity of my rank.
I don't know much about getting a private audience with the Pope, aka the Bishop of Rome, aka the Vicar of Christ, aka the Supreme Pontiff, but never never never never aka Peter. Popes are not allowed to choose the name Peter. I do know that.

Did you know that the youngest man to become Pope was only 18 years old? That the shortest reign as Pope was less than 2 weeks?

Did you know the Vatican has a website? Oh yeah, Pope Benedict XVI waving at you from a site that looks like it's straight out of a Dan Brown book. Now I ask you, if you saw a link on that site called "Vatican Secret Archives," wouldn't you just HAVE to click on it? But while it was loading, would you suddenly think, "Hey, how secret can these archives be? Hey... waitaminute!"

I wonder how Capri was. I wonder if Jean ever gave Loy's "best" to Evaline and the cook.

I think Aunt Jean traveled back to Scotland (where she was born) at one point, but I don't know that she did much travelling beside that. I wonder.


featherbee said...

How does one get a private audience with the Pope? Wow!

I love how you used to be able to address things to a house "name" rather than a number and a street.

Nancy said...

Hey, I didn't even finish my post before you commented!

I think Porcupine House was a lodge or an inn, but I'm not sure. I've been to Bar Harbor a couple of times, and I know Porcupine is a popular name because there is an island or mountain or something with that name.

These days, I think only bigwigs get private audiences with His Eminence. Not sure though.

featherbee said...

Hehe, I had a feeling you were in the middle of it, as you usually do notes on the card, and they weren't there yet.

Wow, the Vatican's site is much more than I had expected.

dshep said...

I enjoy reading your clever post card series! I have a large collection of post cards dating from 1905 through WWII.

Christine M said...

I would have thought the Swiss Guards' outfits were designed much earlier. My son got a die-cast Swiss Guard figurine as a souvenir when my parents visited Rome this year. He thought it looked like the people from the middle ages he was studying.

Nancy said...

Thanks dshep! I enjoy these too. I need to build up my collection though... time for another flea market run soon.

Christine, yes, I would have thought the same. I think the design might have been based on something earlier, but the design did just come about within the last 100 years.