Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City

Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State
Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano
Agency overview
Formed 1816
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency Vatican City State
Size 0,44 km²
Population 836 (2012)
Governing body Governatorate of the Vatican City State
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters via del Pellegrino,
Vatican City
Sworn members 130 (in 2007)
Agency executive Domenico Giani, Inspector General
Gendarme Corps

The Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State (Italian: Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano) is the gendarmerie, or police and security force, of Vatican City and the extraterritorial properties of the Holy See.[1]

The 130-member corps is led by an Inspector General, currently Domenico Giani, who replaced the long-serving Camillo Cibin in June 2006.


In 1816, after the dissolution of the Napoleonic empire, Pope Pius VII founded the Papal Carabinieri Corps for the service of the Papal States. In 1849, under Pope Pius IX, it was renamed, first as the Papal Velites Regiment, and then as the Papal Gendarmerie Corps. It was charged with ensuring public security, and passed from dependence on the Ministry of the Army to dependence on the Cardinal Secretary of State. It took an active part in the battles that finally led to the complete conquest of the Papal States by the victorious Kingdom of Italy. After the capture of Rome in 1870, a small group of members of the Corps continued to serve in the papal residence and the gardens. In 1929, the force was expanded to deal with its duties in the newly founded Vatican City State and in the buildings and other areas over which the Holy See had extraterritorial rights. When in 1970 Pope Paul VI abolished all the military bodies at his service except the Swiss Guards, the Gendarmerie was transformed into a Central Security Office, with the duties of protecting the Pope, defending Vatican City, and providing police and security services within its territory. Its name was changed in 1991 to Security Corps of Vatican City State and in 2002 to Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State.[2]


Vatican gendarme standing guard.

The corps is responsible for security, public order, border control, traffic control, criminal investigation, and other general police duties in Vatican City. The Vatican Gendarmerie includes two special units, the Rapid Intervention Group (Italian: Gruppo Intervento Rapido; G.I.R.) and an anti-sabotage unit (Italian: Unità Antisabotaggio).[2] Since 2000 an operations and control room, staffed 24 hours a day, coordinates the response of the Vatican security services in the case of an emergency.[3] The Interpol National Central Bureau for Vatican City, tasked with collecting and sharing relevant information on crime and security with Interpol, an organisation of which Vatican City is a full member since 2008, is also part of the Vatican Gendarmerie.[3]

While the protection of the Pope's person is primarily the Swiss Guard's responsibility, the gendarmes ensure public order at the audiences, meetings and ceremonies at which he is present. In Italian territory and in other countries, this is done in liaison with the local police authorities.[2]

Before 1970, the then papal gendarmes wore elaborate ceremonial uniforms of 19th-century origin, while the present-day Vatican City gendarmes wear dark blue modern police uniforms.

To qualify for enrollment as a gendarme, a person must be an unmarried male between the ages of 21 to 24 of good health and a practising Catholic. There are also minimum requirements of height and education.[2]

The Gendarmerie's patron saint is Saint Michael the Archangel.[2] Since 1977, the oratory of San Pellegrino in Vaticano serves as the chapel of the Gendarmerie. The church previously served as the chapel of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

The Band of the Gendarmerie also serves as the official marching band of Vatican City.

Other security services in the Vatican

The Commandant of the Gendarmerie Corps is head of the Directorate of Security and Civil Protection Services, which also oversees the Vatican fire brigade.[2]

Security in Vatican City is also provided by the Pontifical Swiss Guard, a military unit of the Holy See, not Vatican City State. The Swiss Guard are responsible for the security of the Pope, dignitaries and all papal buildings. The Swiss Guard have maintained a centuries long tradition of carrying swords and spears, unlike the Gendarmerie Corps.


A Gendarmerie car in the Vatican Gardens

The Gendarmerie is equipped with the Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol in 9 mm Parabellum as the standard issue weapon.

They also have more powerful weapons, such as the Beretta M12 and the Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun, a weapon also used by the Italian police. Against possible riots, they are supplied with batons, tasers, pepper sprays and tear gas. For the elite-unit Rapid Intervention Group (GIR), members are equipped with the Carbon 15 carbine and Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 shotguns.

In September 2012, the Gendarmerie was equipped with one Kangoo Maxi ZE electric car.[4] The Gendarmerie also recently received a pair of Ducati police motorbikes.[5][6][7]

See also


  1. Il personale del Corpo garantisce la sicurezza e l'ordine pubblico anche nelle zone extraterritoriali di proprietà della Santa Sede. (The Corps also guarantees the security and the public order within the extraterritorial properties of the Holy See). In: "Corpo della Gendarmeria" (in Italian). Stato della Città del Vaticano. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Corpo della Gendarmeria" (in Italian). Stato della Città del Vaticano. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  3. 1 2 "Vatican City State – Vatican City State Gendarmerie". INTERPOL. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  4. Pope receives pair of electric cars from maker Renault
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