The tailor of the Swiss Guard sews the trousers of the papal defenders – The citizen
Under the watchful gaze of the former popes in the framed photographs hanging on the walls, tailor Ety Cicioni rushes to sew brightly colored uniforms for the Pontifical Swiss Guard recruits before their swearing-in ceremony.
“Twenty-five years ago it seemed almost impossible, but you end up knowing how to do it by heart,” Cicioni told AFP in his workshop in the oldest army barracks in the world, right in the heart of the Vatican.
“Despite the number of pieces, it’s like a mosaic that I put together automatically,” said the bald 50-year-old as he slipped a piece of colored fabric under the needle of his sewing machine.
Cicioni, armed with scissors, navigates between ironing boards, wooden shelves with spools of thread, and an elevated bank with freshly made jackets and trousers.
In the last few weeks the visits for the installations have multiplied.
Everything must be ready for the swearing-in ceremony on Friday, during which around 30 Swiss citizens, who must be single, Catholic and aged between 19 and 30, will undertake to safeguard the pope for at least 26 months.
“Since the arrival of the new recruits, we only have a month to make the uniform before they start the service,” says Cicioni, who has only three fellow tailors to help make three suits for each guard.
The uniforms are in red, yellow and blue stripes and have one for the winter, one for the summer and one for the night.
Each suit, with its gaiters, trousers and jacket with white collar, is made of fabric from the Piedmontese city of Bielle, in the north-west of Italy, renowned for the quality of its fabrics.
Putting the 154 pieces together takes about 39 hours of painstaking work.
– Buried with it –
Furthermore, “there are also everyday things,” says Cicioni.
“A guard who has a tear, a button to mend, a broken hook: we also take care of these small emergencies,” he jokes.
The halberdiers’ uniform, immortalized by cheery tourists from around the world, has evolved since the creation of the Swiss Guard in 1506 by Pope Julius II, sometimes featuring more red or more black.
The current model, redesigned by the Swiss colonel Jules Repond, dates back to 1914.
Wearing the Renaissance-style garment can be a challenge.
“At first it takes 15 or 20 minutes to get dressed. There are so many buttons they don’t know how to close,” Cicioni says with a chuckle.
He began making uniforms in 1997 under Pope John Paul II, and emphasized the necessary patience and technical skill.
“We are trying to modernize the process because, of course, the techniques change and each brings us something of their own,” says Cicioni, who has a measuring tape draped over the elegant suit and tie he wears every day in his workshop.
After a long day of puffing shoulders and fixing zippers, he saw the young guards socially.
“When I arrived we would go out together. The relationship has changed now, but there is a lot of respect, “she said, praising the” sacrifice “their commitment represents.
When they leave, the guards must return their uniforms, unless they have served more than five years.
“In that case, they can take it with them, but they don’t own them. After death, the uniforms must be returned or placed with the deceased in his or her coffin,” he said.