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 military police and security force, of Vatican City, Holy See and its extraterritorial properties. It was founded in 1816 as Corps of Gendarmes by Pope Pius VII, renamed the Central Security Office in 1970, the Security Corps in 1991, and was restored to its original name in 2002.[2]

Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State
Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano (Italian)
MottoFides et Virtus
Faith and courage
Agency overview
Jurisdictional structure
National agencyVatican City State
Operations jurisdictionVatican City State
Size0.49[1] km2 (0.19 sq mi)
Population836 (2012)
Governing bodyGovernorate of the Vatican City State
General nature
Operational structure
Headquartersvia del Pellegrino,
Vatican City
Sworn members130 (in 2007)
Agency executive
  • 29 September
Corpo della Gendarmeria

The corps numbered 130 as of 2017. It is led by Inspector General Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, who has served on the Vatican gendarmerie since 1995 and who was made deputy leader in 2018. He was appointed by Pope Francis on 15 October 2019.[3]


The headdress for the Gendarmerie is a Kepi cap (similar to this French example). The current Gendarmerie one has the Vatican City State badge.

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 in Papal 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.[4]

Map of Vatican City, the barracks of the Gendarmerie is shown top-right


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 (Gruppo Intervento Rapido; G.I.R.) and an Anti-Sabotage Unit (Unità Antisabotaggio).[4] 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.[5]

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.[5]

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 other countries, this is done in liaison with the local police authorities.[4]

In 2015, the Gendarmerie made eight arrests.[6]

Vatican police officers Saint Peter's square, in shirt sleeves every-day uniform (October 2014)



There are a number of different roles within the Gendarmerie. Ranks are shown in the structure below. Some members of the Gendarmerie are officers, some are gendarmes.

  • 99 officers;
  • three department heads
  • eight police chiefs
  • 16 police commissioners
  • 32 inspectors
  • 40 vice-inspectors
  • 94 gendarmes.[7]



To qualify for enrollment as a gendarme, a person must be an unmarried male, between the ages of 21 and 24, of good health and a practising Catholic. There are also minimum requirements of height and education—standing at least 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m), 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).[8]

The Gendarmerie's patron saint is Saint Michael the Archangel.[4] 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.[citation needed]



The Band of the Gendarmerie (Italian: Banda musicale del Corpo della Gendarmeria) is a uniformed band of musicians that serves at Gendarmerie events and also serves as the official marching band of Vatican City.

In October 2007, the band is the heir to the Papal Gendarmerie band founded in 1851 and in turn descended from the musical formations of the body of the Pontifical Velites. The band is made up of about 100 musicians and volunteers coming from the Italian military bands such as the Italian Army Music Band and the National Carabinieri Band.[citation needed]

Training and operations


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).

20 of the 138 Vatican officers have received special training for 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.

Rapid Intervention Group (GIR)


The Gendarmerie has a Rapid Intervention Group (Gruppo di Intervento Rapido; GIR), a police tactical unit trained for various situations to respond to threats more effectively:[9][10]

  • shooting procedures
  • combat in a restricted environment
  • anti-sabotage
  • breaching

Other security services in the Vatican


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.[4]

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.[citation needed]

Relationship with Italy


As Vatican City State is a country within another country and due to the nature of the policing duties of the Gendarmerie, the Vatican Government and Gendarmerie maintain strong links with the Italian police and authorities. Sometimes, they will visibly assist each other in times of crisis, such as the earthquake in 2016, when the Pope reportedly sent some gendarmes to assist in the rescue but also keeping law and order. The gendarmes sent were in their uniform and carrying their firearms, as it was reported that there were looters in the area.[11] Members of the Vatican Fire Brigade and Pontifical Swiss Guard were also sent to help.

Likewise, the Italian Arma dei Carabinieri (Italian state military police) and Polizia di Stato (Italian national civil state police) are seen in and around St. Peter's Square (Vatican territory) policing the crowds and carrying out protective duties.[12]

Equipment and vehicles




The Gendarmerie is equipped with weapons to protect Vatican City State. The Glock semi-automatic pistol (various versions) in 9 mm Parabellum is the standard-issue weapon.[7] They also have more powerful weapons, such as: the Beretta M12 and Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns.[7]

The Rapid Intervention Group (GIR) is equipped with the Carbon 15 carbine and Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 shotguns.

Against possible riots, they are supplied with batons, tasers,[13] pepper sprays[7] and tear gas.

Swords are carried for ceremonial duties.[14]



In 2010, Ducati presented two police motorbikes to the Gendarmeria, designed in the white and yellow colors of the Vatican.[15][16]

In September 2012, the Gendarmerie was equipped with one Kangoo Maxi ZE electric car.[17]

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".

A Gendarmerie car in the Vatican Gardens

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 equipped with blue emergency vehicle lighting.[22]

Other equipment


Radios are carried and used with earpieces and 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.[23]

The present-day Vatican City gendarmes wear dark blue modern police uniforms. There are different orders of dress for different occasions and seasons (as well as weather). However, rank, insignia and decorations do not differ between uniforms.

Everyday Dress

  • Blue kepi (cap) with cap badge
  • White shirt
  • Black tie
  • Blue tunic with four pockets or long black jacket or short black bomber jacket
  • Pocket badge
  • Blue trousers with a black stripe down the side
  • Black boots.
Gendarme showing the everyday uniform (tunic configuration). Notice the Italian-style pistol holster, worn on the left for cross-draw purposes

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
  • Square baseball cap
  • Beret
  • Black boots

Plain clothes

  • A dark suit may be worn when gendarmes carry out close protection duties (e.g. assisting the Swiss Guard with protecting the Pope)

Ceremonial Dress

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



The ranks of the Corps of Gendarmerie was adopted in 2002 with the renaming of the Security Corps.[24][25] [failed verification]

Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
  Gendarmerie of Vatican City
Ispettore generale Dirigente generale Dirigente superiore Primo dirigente Dirigente Commissario Vice commissario

  Security Corps of Vatican City
Ispettore generale Vice ispettore vicario Vice ispettore Sovrastante maggiore Sovrastante Vice sovrastante
Rank group Senior NCOs Junior NCOs Enlisted
  Gendarmerie of Vatican City
Ispettore Vice ispettore Brigadiere Vice brigadiere Gendarme

  Security Corps of Vatican City
Assistente Vice assistente Agente scelto Agente



See also



  1. ^ De Agostini Atlas Calendar, 1945–46, p. 128. (in Italian)
  2. ^ "Corpo della Gendarmeria" (in Italian). Stato della Città del Vaticano. Retrieved 4 June 2014. Il personale del Corpo garantisce la sicurezza e l'ordine pubblico anche nelle zone extraterritoriali di proprietà della Santa Sede.
  3. ^ "Pope appoints new Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie". 15 October 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Corpo della Gendarmeria" (in Italian). Stato della Città del Vaticano. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  5. ^ a b "Vatican City State – Vatican City State Gendarmerie". INTERPOL. Archived from the original on 2016-04-08. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  6. ^ "Vatican City PD: Gendarmes continue centuries-old military tradition". 26 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d "Vatican-gb". Archived from the original on 2022-08-17. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  8. ^ San Martín, Inés (2 March 2015). "Vatican security chief says ISIS threat to pope is real". Crux. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Addestramento congiunto con il GIR - Esercito Italiano". Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  10. ^ "La Gendarmeria Vaticana si dota dei taser? Speriamo che non sia vero". Jun 18, 2018. Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  11. ^ Ragona, Fabio Marchese (Aug 27, 2016). "Aiuti e carità: il Papa manda i suoi soldati". Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  12. ^ "Carabinieri Mitsubishi I-Miev & Polizia Stradale Alfa Romeo Sportswagon Q4". Apr 25, 2017. Retrieved Jul 1, 2020 – via Flickr.
  13. ^ "Taser alla gendarmeria vaticana: aumenta l'allerta attorno al Papa". Globalist. 18 June 2018. Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  14. ^ "The book launch of La Gendarmeria Vaticana. Dalle origini ai giorni nostri by Sandro..." agefotostock. Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  15. ^ "Due Ducati per il Papa". La Repubblica (in Italian). 15 September 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Two Ducati Multistradas presented for the Pope's motorcade". Motorcyclist. 20 September 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  17. ^ "News from the Vatican - News about the Church - Vatican News". Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  18. ^ "Festa Harley-Davidson a Roma: due Road King Police donate al Papa in beneficienza". Jun 18, 2013. Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  19. ^ @volkswagen (28 March 2017). "Electrifying: #VW Italia has..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "La gendarmeria ecosostenibile del Vaticano". Oct 23, 2011. Archived from the original on August 20, 2019. Retrieved Jul 1, 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d Tamburrino, Matteo (29 May 2012). "Gendarmeria Vaticana". Tactical News Magazine (in Italian) – via
  22. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Vatican police show off new hardware on feast day". YouTube.
  23. ^ D'Ami, Rinaldo (1970). World Uniforms in Colour, Volume 1 - The European Nations, p. 12. Patrick Stephens Ltd. London, SBN 85059 031 0.
  24. ^ "Sostituzione della denominazione Corpo di Vigilanza dello Stato della Città del Vaticano in Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano." Corpo della Gendarmeria dello Stato della Città del Vaticano. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  25. ^ "Diretto da un Ispettore Generale, coadiuvato da un Vice ispettore vicario e da un vice ispettore, era formato da cento uomini ripartiti nei gradi di : agente, agente scelto, vice assistente, assistente, vice sovrastante, sovrastante e sovrastante maggiore, oltre che dai dirigenti gia menzionati. Queste sono le qualifiche gerarchiche che sono in vigore tutt'ora." Corpi Armati Pontifici. Retrieved 2020-03-29.