Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Women halberdiers?

The Swiss Guard is the world's smallest army, guarding the Vatican and the Pope. It's comprised of Swiss men. Just like the priesthood, it's all men. Maybe not much longer! The current commander has said that he can see women in the job. This is relevant to me because the members of the Swiss Guard carry halberds, a kind of battle axe or polearm, and are known as halberdiers. This is where my family name comes from. Rumor has it that the original Halbert was one guy who was particularly good with it.

Tomorrow, May 6, is annual celebration of the day in 1527 when 140 Swiss Guards were killed defending Pope Clement VII, who survived.

Here's a bit of trivia that I just came across: Saint Wiborada, a Swiss nun who was the first woman canonized by the Vatican, is commonly depicted as holding a halberd, which was supposedly the weapon used to kill her and therefore make her a martyr. This isn't true, because the halberd was not developed for several more centuries (she died in 926). But an interesting story nonetheless. Her feast day is May 2 (lots of interesting things happening in this first week of May), and she is the patron saint of librarians.

If women are allowed to guard the Vatican, that will hopefully will be one small step towards women becoming priests.

No comments: