The world’s oldest standing army is getting an update on their 513th anniversary, replacing their heavy metal ceremonial helmets for new lightweight 3-D printed plastic headgear.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard have been in the service of the pope since the first soldiers entered Rome on January 22, 1506. They’re iconic for their distinct Renaissance appearance, sporting colorful uniforms, halberds, and morion helmets.
Their traditional medieval head armor is hand forged in Austria, coming in at over four pounds. At a special ceremony for the Guard’s 513th ceremony, 110 Swiss soldiers sported new lightweight 3-D printed headgear made of durable weather-resistant thermoplastic, retaining their Renaissance style with ostrich feathers.
Each helmet comes in at just over a pound and is stamped with the coat of arms of Pope Julius II, founder of the order in 1506. They cost around 1,000 dollars but are still cheaper than predecessors, only taking 21 hours to make compared to the 130 hours of the hand forged variety.
The plastic replicas are manufactured from digital scans of a 16th century original in Switzerland by a 3D printing company. Commander of the Guard Christoph Graf said “we have to move with the times,” and they expect to use the new helmets only for ceremonial occasions.