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Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City

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.[2]

Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State
Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano
MottoFides et Virtus
Faith and courage
Agency overview
Formed1816 as Corps of Gendarmes founded by Pope Pious VII, 1970 as Central Security Office, and 1991 as Security Corps and 2002 a law was passed to change that organisation's name to the original Corps of Gendarmes.[1]
Jurisdictional structure
National agencyVatican City State
Operations jurisdictionVatican City State
Size0.44 km²
Population836 (2012)
Governing bodyGovernorate of the Vatican City State
General nature
Headquartersvia del Pellegrino,
Vatican City

Sworn members130 (in 2007)
Agency executive
  • 29 September
Gendarme Corps

The emergency telephone number for the Gendarmerie is 112.

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



Kepi formely worn by Vatican Gendarmes, the current one has the Vatican City State crest

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.[3]


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).[3] 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.[4] 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.[4]

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.[3]


To qualify for enrolment 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 - standing at least 5’8”, and being a high school graduate. Military service is not a requirement, but is advantageous (in Italy there are two national military-police forces in addition to civilian police forces).[5]

The Gendarmerie's patron saint is Saint Michael the Archangel.[3] 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 is a uniformed band of musicians that serves at Gendarmerie events and also serves as the official marching band of Vatican City.

Training and OperationsEdit

The Gendarmerie are responsible for policing the whole of Vatican City State (however the Italian Polizia di Stato and sometimes Italian Carabinieri patrol St. Peter's Square.

Twenty of the one hundred and thirty-eight Vatican officers have received “special training” for countering “anti-terrorist actions.” Some of these officers accompany the Pope during his international travels.” The Vatican has an operational centre “of high technological level,” and thousands of surveillance cameras, as well as in extraterritorial Vatican properties.

Other security services in the VaticanEdit

The Commandant of the Gendarmerie Corps is the head of the Directorate of Security and Civil Protection Services, which also oversees the Vatican fire brigade.[3]

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.

Equipment and vehiclesEdit

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 June 2018, it was reported that the Gendarmerie would be adding tasers to their armoury.[6]

In 2010, on the occasion of a donation of vehicles by Ducati , a specific yellow - white livery was created that reflects the colours of the Vatican flag.[7]The Gendarmerie also recently received a pair of Ducati police motorbikes.[8][9][10]

In September 2012, the Gendarmerie was equipped with one Kangoo Maxi ZE electric car.[11] Later, in 2012 the donations of a Fiat Bravo and a Renault Kangoo led to the debut of a blue livery with a white- gold band, initially with the words "Gendarmeria Vaticana" then simply changed to "Gendarmeria ".


  • Ducati motorkbikes (marked) (2) (SCV064 & SCV065)
  • Harley-Davidson Road King motorbikes (marked) (2)[12] (SCV0176 and SCV0177)
  • Four-person buggy
  • Volkswagen EUP! electric cars (marked) (2)[13]
  • Fiat Bravo (marked) (1)
  • Smart ForTwo (marked)[14]
  • Renault Kangoo Maxi ZE electric car (marked) (1)
  • VW Passat cars for escort work(unmarked) (2)[15]
  • Fiat van (control/communications unit)[16]
  • Anti-sabotage unit van and trailer[17]
  • Mercedes-Benz open-top pickup for the Rapid Intervention Group (GIR)[18]

All of these vehicles are registered in Vatican City State with 'SCV' preceding the numbers on all vehicle registration plates (the Pope's vehicles wear 'SCV1'. The vehicles are also equipped with blue flashing lights.[19]

Radios are carried and used with earpieces & microphones on duty.


Before 1970, the 180 Pontifical Gendarmes wore elaborate ceremonial uniforms of 19th-century origin. These included bearskin headdresses with red plumes, black coatees with white-fringed epaulettes, white doeskin breeches and knee-high riding boots. In service dress bicornes and blue trousers were substituted.[20]

The present-day Vatican City gendarmes wear dark blue modern police uniforms:

Everyday Dress

  • Blue kepi (cap) with capbadge
  • White shirt
  • Black tie
  • Blue tunic with four pockets or long black jacket/short black bomber jacket
  • Pocket badge
  • Blue trousers with black stripe down the side
  • Black boots.

Dress-down Uniform

  • (worn when the above is impractical/unsuitable)
  • Light blue polo shirt
  • Dark blue trousers
  • V-neck jumper
  • Jacket
  • Baseball cap
  • Black boots/shoes

Special/Practical Duties

  • Dark blue shirt-jacket
  • Dark blue cargo trousers
  • Helmet/baseball cap
  • Black boots

Ceremonial Dress

  • Blue kepi (cap) with capbadge
  • White shirt
  • Black tie
  • Blue tunic with four pockets
  • Pocket badge
  • Blue trousers with black stripe down the side
  • Dark blue cape with clasp (wintertime)
  • Black waist belts with beltbadge over tunic (with or without pistol holster or sword)
  • Officers wear gold and yellow shoulder sash
  • White gloves
  • Medals worn on left breast (if any)
  • Black boots


OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) & Student officer
  Vatican City
No equivalent
              No equivalent
Ispettore generale Dirigente generale Dirigente superiore Primo dirigente Dirigente Commissario Vice commissario
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
  Vatican City
No equivalent
  No equivalent       No equivalent  
Ispettore Vice ispettore Brigadiere Vice brigadiere Gendarme


  • Arcangelo De Mandato (1922-1942)
  • Adolfo Soleti (1942-1944)
  • Mario Pericoli (1944-1947)
  • Mario Pericoli (1947-1958)
  • Francesco Saverio Bernado (1959-1961)
  • Spartaco Angelini (1961-1971)
  • Isp. Gen. Camillo Cibin (1 August 1972 - 2 June 2006 )
  • Isp. Gen. Dr. Domenico Giani (from 3 June 2006 )

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Corpo della Gendarmeria" (in Italian). Stato della Città del Vaticano. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  4. ^ a b "Vatican City State – Vatican City State Gendarmerie". INTERPOL. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Pope receives pair of electric cars from maker Renault
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Rinaldo D'Ami, page 12 "World Uniforms in Colour" Volume 1 - The European Nations, Patrick Stephens Ltd London 1970, SBN 85059 031 0

External linksEdit