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Beefing up security: Blacksmiths forge new suit of armor for bulkier Vatican guards

Swiss Guards stand before Pope Benedict XVI makes an address from a balcony in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City on Dec. 25, 2012.
Swiss Guards stand before Pope Benedict XVI makes an address from a balcony in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City on Dec. 25, 2012.Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters, file
A new suit of armor being made for the Vatican Swiss Guard is seen on Jan. 21, 2013 at the Schmiede Schmidberger workshop in Molln, Austria.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images
Swiss Guards stand before Pope Benedict XVI makes an address from a balcony in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City on Dec. 25, 2012.Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters, file

The Vatican has contracted a family of blacksmiths in an Austrian village to manufacture 80 new sets of armor in a project that will take seven years to complete.

Most of the existing armor worn by the Vatican's Swiss Guard dates back at least 100 years when people were generally smaller than they are today, so the existing armor does not always fit today's bulkier guards.

The firm of blacksmiths, Schmiede Schmidberger, is a family-run operation that has been in existence since the year 1350.

-- Getty Images

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Blacksmith Georg Schmidberger crafts a piece of metal that will become part of a suit of armor.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images
The design for a new suit of armor.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images
Tools in the Schmiede Schmidberger workshop.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images
An exterior view of the workshop.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images
Johann Schmidberger Senior works on the Swiss Guard armor.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images
Schmiede Schmidberger is a family-run operation that has been in existence since the year 1350.Mathias Kniepeiss / Getty Images