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Ancient Rome - The Castle Sant'Angelo





 Ancient Rome  - The Castel Sant'Angelo

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The Castel Sant'Angelo

             Castel Sant'Angelo  in Rome, Italy is striking at night.

The Castel Sant'Angelo is one of Rome's most famous architectural monuments. Resplendent day or night, the building was originally commissioned in the 2nd century by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (Publio Elio Adriano). Designed to be his family's mausoleum and it was used for the same purposes by other emperors after Hadrian's death. Within a century of being built it was converted into a fortress linked to the Aurelian Walls, functioning as  part of the defensive ramparts being developed to protect Rome from invaders.


        Castel Sant'Angleo and the Bridge of the Saint Angels viewed from across the Tiber in Rome, Italy

In the 14th century, during a period when there was no effective government to protect Rome from invading armies, the building was confiscated by the Catholic Church and further fortified for the protection of the Vatican and the popes. It was during this time that a tunnel (Passeto) was built connecting the fortification with the Vatican, allowing the Pope a safe escape route if the defense of the Vatican should be in jeopardy.

The castle's name derives from the Archangel Michael whose statue (a relatively recent addition) towers over the building. Legend has it that Pope Gregory the Great while passing the building during a plague in the 6th century, saw an image, crowning the building, of the sword-bearing Archangel  defeating the plague. Soon after this apparition, the plague ended and the Castel became Castel Sant'Angelo.  In another change from Hadrian's time, the original bridge (called the Aelian Bridge) was  renamed the Ponte Sant'Angelo.  The  bridge was widened in the 15th century and eventually ten statues of angels were added by Bernini, each with a unique pose and theme. 

The Catholic Church took control of the ownership of th structure in the 14th century and made many of the modifications you see today. During the 16th century the building was used as an official palace for the popes, although several of the papal apartments were created in previous centuries.


Today, this once mighty edifice houses the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo.  The Museo provides interesting information and exhibits about the history of the building and also includes a collection of Renaissance paintings, frescos, sculptures, ceramics, arms and armor.  The view of Rome from the top of the building is worth seeing.  

During your visit be sure to see the Marcia Ronde in the Castle along with the four corner bastions (named for the Four Evangelists), as well as the ramp that spirals from the top to the bottom of the structure. The Papal Apartments are lavishly decorated and worth a look. 

The Castel Sant'Angelo, plays a critical role in Dan Brown's work of fiction, Angels &  Demons.  Without revealing too many plot details, the building is an unlikely  location for the secret prison described in the book, since it is a public museum.

       The Castel Sant'Angelo is squat, robust building that has served many purposes.         

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A bust of the Emperor Hadrian, who originally comissioned Castel Sant'Angleo as his mausoleum

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For more information about the Castel, see this site  (in Italian, but Google's toolbar translator does a good job here).



Another image of the Castel at night, with its Saint Michael glowing a ghostly blue









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Ghost and Mystery Walking Tour of Rome

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