This week's theme for PhotoHunt is "stripes". I thought an appropriate photo was this one I took in front of the Vatican of the Swiss Guards.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Swiss Guards:
Swiss Guards is the name given to the Swiss soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century. They are now represented in some sense by the Papal Swiss Guard. They have generally had a high reputation for discipline and loyalty to their employers. Apart from household and guard units, some formations have also served as fighting troops in the field; regular Swiss mercenary regiments served as line troops in various armies, notably those of France, Spain and Naples right up to the 19th century.
Various units of Swiss Guards have existed for hundreds of years. The earliest such detachment was the Swiss Hundred Guard' (Cent-Garde) at the French court (1497 – 1830). This small force was complemented in 1567 by a Swiss Guard regiment. The Papal Swiss Guard in the Vatican was founded in 1506 and is the only Swiss Guard that still exists. In the 18th century several other Swiss Guards existed for periods in various European courts.
And here is what Wikipedia says about the uniforms:
The official dress uniform is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. While usually attributed to Michelangelo, Commandant Jules Repond (1910-1921) created the current uniforms in 1914. While a painting of the Swiss Guard bearing Pope Julius II on a litter (by Raphael) is often cited as inspiration for the Swiss Guard uniform, the actual uniforms worn by those soldiers are of the style which appears by today's standards as a large skirt, a common style in uniforms during the Renaissance. A very clear expression of the modern Swiss Guard uniform can be seen in a 1577 fresco by Jacob Coppi of the Empress Eudoxia conversing with Pope Sixtus III. It is clearly the precursor of today's recognizable three-colored uniform with boot covers, white gloves, a high or ruff collar, and either a black beret or a black Comb morion (silver for high occasions). Sergeants wear a black top with crimson leggings, while other officers wear an all-crimson uniform.
The regular duty uniform is more functional, consisting of a simpler solid blue version of the more colorful tri-color grand gala uniform, worn with a simple brown belt, a flat white collar and a black beret. For new recruits and rifle practice, a simple light blue overall with a brown belt may be worn. During cold or inclement weather, a dark blue cape is worn over the regular uniform. The original colors (blue and yellow) were issued by Pope Julius II taking his family (Della Rovere) colors. Pope Leo X added the red to reflect his family's Medici colors.
Headwear is typically a black beret for daily duties, while a black or silver morion helmet with red, white, yellow and black, and purple ostrich feather is worn for ceremonial duties, the former for guard duty or drill; the latter for high ceremonial occasions such as the annual swearing in ceremony or reception of foreign heads of state.
The tailors of the uniforms work inside the Swiss Guard barracks. The Renaissance style uniform weighs 8 pounds, and may be the heaviest uniform in use by any standing army today. They are also the most complicated to construct; one uniform takes 32 hours to complete.