Formed in 1506 and often called the “smallest army in the world” or the “Pope’s army”, the Swiss Guard have had a rich and storied history. Their main duty is to protect the pope and ensure his safety. Besides that, they also perform various ceremonial responsibilities: guarding the Apostolic Palace, keeping vigil at various Vatican checkpoints, and taking part in celebratory masses and events. They even have their own musical band called The Banda. Those who are musically inclined join it. The band performs each year at the swearing-in ceremony and other special occasions like Christmas or National Day. The drummers today can be distinguished from other Swiss Guards by their use of a different uniform. Visit Inside the Vatican: Christmas with the Band of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.