Some of the Pope's Faithful Gendarmes
( Originally Published 1907 )
This Court of the Belvedere is, we remember, the one nearest to the Church of St. Peter's. A smaller court with the same name is at the extreme north end of the Vatican palace, and we shall see it later.
The dashing officers standing before us have the usual military smartness in their handsome costumes, with all the chic of the Italian or Roman officer. It would appear that their duty is a light one, but as a matter of fact it is far more severe, because more delicate, than the duty of the ordinary civic police. The open house kept by the Pope enables the crank and the assassin to enter more easily than elsewhere ; the thieves who haunt museums for rich plunder do not spare the Vatican with its wonderful art treasures; it is therefore no light responsibility which these men assume. The political turbulence of Europe has added very much to their responsibility. The rise of anarchism, the terrible political creed which would abolish all social and political forms and blow up their leaders, has made the lives of monarchs most unsafe; and the anarchist has a particular hatred for the Pope, as the defender of a stable society. The Vatican gendarmes have to exercise an intelligent and sleepless vigilance within, while the Italian government keeps guard without over the territory adjacent to the palace. Between the two powers it has been possible to keep out the thief and the anarchist, to that extent that few or no outrages have taken place.
Our next position will be in the smaller Court of the Belvedere at the far northeast end of the palace. Find on the map the number 28, at which point we are to meet Cardinal Azevedo, Prefect of the Apostolic Palace.