With the recent news that the Vatican’s Swiss Guard is releasing a book of recipes, I’m again hearing the myth, perpetuated by Dan Brown among others, that Michelangelo designed the uniforms of the Guard at the behest of his patron, Julius II.
Pope Julius was a zealous patron of the arts who commissioned a series of highly influential art and architecture projects in Rome. In addition to the reconstruction of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Julius was responsible for the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo and various stanze in the Vatican by Raphael.
Though Michelangelo’s genius encompassed sculpture, painting, architecture, poetry, and engineering, no evidence exists that he was also a fashion designer. In fact, in one of Raphael’s aforementioned stanze, The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, a Swiss Guard bearing the papal litter of Julius II can be seen in the left foreground. The black and umber uniform bears little resemblance to the red, orange, and blue tri-color grand gala uniform seen today.
If you need further proof, the website of the Pontifical Swiss Guards attributes the current design of the uniform to Commandant Jules Repond (1910-1921).
As for the tastiness of the Swiss Guard’s recipes, de gustibus non est disputandum.
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