Castel Sant’Angelo is an instantly recognisable landmark, due to its chunky round shape. For sure, one of the monuments and places to visit in Rome. The imposing fortress is the only building that has followed the growth of the city of Rome for 2000 years. The other Roman monuments were reduced to ruins or used as marble quarries to use in Reinassance constructions.
It is the very silent witness throughout the history of Rome. Starting as a Roman Emperor tomb, then a fortress, then a papal residence, a prison and even an execution ground. Currently, it is a museum offering one of the most impresnisive views over the city.
It was built in 123 – 139 AD as the tomb of emperor Hadrian, who designed it himself.
The mausoleum was named after an Archangel on 590, when Pope Gregory I saw archangel Michael, on top of the mausoleum, sheathe his sword. On that time a plague was killing hundreds of people and the view of an angel was a sign of the end of the epidemic.
The mausoleum was converted into a castle in the year 280 when the Aurelian walls were built around it. As Rome got fortified walls, the castle took a defensive position right by the Tiber river.
Rome’s citizens, sieged by barbarians in the 6th century, took shelter inside the fortress and used statues as projectiles to defend themselves. Moreover, the castle was sacked twice in 410 and 537, and a lot of art-works were destroyed.
At the beginning of the XI century, Castel Sant’Angelo became a State prison. In XIV century, after several change hands between roman noble families, Castel Sant’Angelo tied its fate to the Popes’ fate.
In 14th-century, the Pope changed the fortress into a castle, for papal residence. The castle was soon linked to Saint Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Palaces through a fortified wall, Passetto di Borgo. Over the centuries, lots of legends are born around the wall. Such as the ones about Pope Alexander VI Borgia, who used it when he wanted to escape, for a few hours, the sacredness of Saint Peter’s.
In the small square by the bridge took place public executions, among the most popular public event for Romans. Public executions attracted people from every corner of the city.
Eventually, in 1906 Castel Sant’Angelo became a National museum, rich in history and charme.
Whoever comes to Rome and makes his way towards the Vatican, can’t help to raise eyes and give a look to this astonishing monument. The angel on the roof, with clothes and hair moved by the wind, still watches over and protects the city.
Castel Sant’Angelo also owes its fame to Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons movie, where the castle was a hide-out for the Illuminati.
The castle is connected with the other side of the river by Ponte Sant’ Angelo, built in 133AD. On 1450, during the Jubilee, the bridge collapsed under the weight of the pilgrims and over 400 people dead. Each side of the bridge is now lined with five stautes, representing angels.
Nice neighborhood off-the-beaten-path