The Chapel of Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City
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Church of San Pellegrino is one of the oldest churches in Vatican City.
The small church is entrusted to the care of the papal Master of Ceremonies
and chaplain of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Msgr. Giulio Viviani.
The origins of this church date back at least to the 8th century. According to the Liber Pontificalis
Pope Saint Leo III (795-816) gave the existing church a silver lamp, when the church was a hospice for
the reception of pilgrims and the care of the cemetery of San Pellegrino in
Naumachi. (Naumachi refers to the fact that the church was built on the ruins of the
building where the Roman emperors amused themselves by "playing" a naval battle).
Discoveries in the church made by Monsignor De Waal, chancellor of the German Campo
Santo nearby brought to light remains of frescos dating back to the 9th century
The gendarmes and firefighters honor as their chapel's patron
St. Peregrinus. According to tradition, on the occasion of his coronation in the year 800,
Charlemagne donated to the little church relics of St. Peregrinus, the first bishop of Auxerre
in modern-day France.
Msgr. Viviani believes the church was first known as "The Pilgrim's Church," because it
was the last stop on Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrim route to St. Peter's Basilica. Another
possibility is that it was named in honor of a Pellegrino or Peregrinus martyred in Rome in the
second century along with Sts. Eusebius, Vincent and Pontian.
In 1657 it was ceded by Pope Alexander VII the Pontifical Swiss Guard. The chapel functioned as a
place of worship and burial (both inside and annex cemetery) for this worthy "Swiss cohort" as defined
in the ancient tombstones. The 147 guardsmen who died protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome
in 1527 were buried in the annex cemetery here, before they were moved to the Campo Santo Teutonico.
But since 1977, the church has been the chapel of the 150 Vatican gendarmes, as the police are called, and the 30 Vatican firefighters
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