Best-kept secret in Castel Sant 'Angelo. You don't see this in any of the travel guidebooks (at least I haven't) or even in the Castel literature. You won't want to miss this very small bagno where the entire room - walls and ceiling - were painted by Raphael and, yes, our guide who is with the Rome Cultural Ministry confirmed that it was, indeed, painted by Raphael. It is not easy to find and you will climb a short but very narrow stairway to reach the room - worth the search and worth the upward trek. The stairway gets more narrow as you reach the room so be prepared - the room is well lit and you can get great photos.
Much more - two Travelogues - on Castel Sant 'Angelo on my Vatican pages.
From all fortified castles I have seen in Europe this is certainly the most extraordinary, if not extravagant, fortress I have visited.
It started with a mausoleum to Emperor Hadrian (117 - 138 AD) and contained also the funerary urns of his successors Antonius Pius, Marc-Aurelius, Commode and Septime Severus and Caracalla.
The mausoleum of Hadrian was probably similar to that of the emperor August of which a ruin subsists. The mausoleum has a square base of 84 m side, about 15 m high, surmounted by a cylindrical part with a diameter of 64 m and 20 m high. The cylinder was decorated with travertine and bronze statues at the basement.
The upper part of this cylinder was probably finished as a garden around a small temple. On top the statue of the emperor on a quadriga as shown on the models (photo 2 & 3).
From the outside some blocks of peperino, a volcanic stone, of the mole which once supported the outer casing is all that remains visible. The rest is covered by the fortification works from the later periods.
The inner part subsisting from the mausoleum is the one by which the visit starts at the first level. The monumental entrance was only discovered in 1825, the visit starts with the Roman Atrium with its huge niche intended for a statue of Emperor Hadrian and the spectacular spiral ramp.
At the origin this ramp with travertine walls, 3 m wide, 6 m high, was making a full turn inside the cylinder of the mausoleum and was decorated with marble, mosaics and stuccos.
When in 271 AD the mausoleum of Hadrian was included in the fortification wall of Emperor Aurelian it lost its function and became the strongest fortress of Rome.
Open : Tuesday to Sunday 9 - 19.30 h. Closed on Monday.
Price (2013): ordinary 10,50 €; reduced 7 € for EU citizens 18 - 15 yr. Free for EU citizens less than 18 and more than 65 years old.
Photos allowed without tripod or flash.
Castel St. Angelo
More detail and photos on Vatican Travelogue page (now there are 2 travelogues - I got carried away.....). Also, Vatican Things To Do - Castle Sant Angelo. There is much to see and do here and many features that are not publicized, such as the very small bagno (found completely intact) painted by Rafaele and so very difficult to find within the Castel walls - the more savvy staff can direct you.
135 AD. Emperor Hadrian began this family vault, unfinished when he died three years later.
139. Emperor Antoninus Pius completed it and for almost three-quarters of a century, from Hadrian to Septimius Severus, it was the repository for the emperors' ashes.
590. During a procession to stop the plague, Pope Gregory the Great saw a vision of the Archangel Michael sheathing his sword at the top of the mausoleum. The Pope promised that if God stopped the plague, he would build a memorial to the Archangel. The plague stopped and Gregory kept his vow. The Baroque angel soaring above the castle commemorates that.
Middle Ages. For a thousand years the Popes used this structure as Rome's Citadel and dungeon in their continuous struggle against the feudal barons and the Holy Roman Emperors. They raised defensive fortifications and added watchtowers at the corners, named after the four Evangelists.
Renaissance. The great Popes topped the Castello with a chapel by Michelangelo, loggias by Bramante and Antonio Sangallo Jr., paintings from the school of Raphael, a theater-court and a papal hot tub.
1752. The bronze sculpture of St. Michael the Archangel by the Flemish artist Peter Verschaffelt was installed at the top, replacing a Renaissance marble angel, now in the Courtyard of the cannonballs, where we attend concerts.
The Castel Sant'Angelo was orginally commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The popes later converted the structure into a fortress (from the 14th century) where a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo connected St. Peter's Basilica and the Castle. This fortress was used a refuge by Pope Clement VII during the siege sometime in 1527. Most of the original decorations were lost due to the conversion of the structure to a military fortress. However a richly appointed apartment was built to make sure the pope has an appropriate place to stay in when a new siege occurs. Sant'Angelo was also used by the Papal state as a prison.
If you come from St Peter's Basilica, just walk to the Castle straight from the square. You will not miss the Ponte Sant'Angelo with its angel sculptures on the sides. Later in the morning the bridge will be full of street vendors and tourists so that will make your pictures a bit busy but that's fine. I didn't go inside though (as I was not really that interested) but maybe you'd like to go in.
If you're ready to leave the castle, just continue to the other side of the bridge (left bank of Tiber) and walk towards the next bridge to your left - the Ponte Umberto 1. You will get one of the prettiest photo opportunity while in Rome.
The mausoleum started its transformation to a fortress when it was included into the Aurelian wall and became a "castellum". In 537 when the Visigoths attacked Rome it proved its value. The defenders used the bronze statues as projectiles. Over the centuries the defensive role of the fortress grew in importance as it controlled the northern route to the city and got linked by the fortified area of the Borgo to the Vatican palaces. The prominent Roman families disputed its possession until the castle became a defensive place for the Pope.
The spiral ramp and the atrium were closed and a new entrance was opened with a drawbridge.
A square wall called "Marcia Ronda" with bastions at the corners called after the four evangelists was constructed. A moat was created around the walls. Inside the cylindrical body a diametrical ramp was built which leads to the second level with the room of the urns, the silos and to the third level called "Giretto Coperto" or Covered Tower. The main courtyard at this third level is called "Cortille dell'Angelo" because here was found the statue of the archangel Michael who decorated the top of the castle until 1747.
Here is the entrance to the papal apartments. There is another courtyard "Cortille d'Alessandro VI" showing a replica (?) of a catapult.
This is a very imposing Castle which stands out against the landscape as you walk along the Tiber. We were walking along the riverside looking at bridges, homes and anything else of interest when we saw the Castle on the overside of the river. We decided to get a closer view and walked accross the Ponte Sant' Angelo which itself is worth stopping for a few minutes to admire the 10 Bernini baroque statutes of angels.
The castle is approximately 2000 years old and is a memorial to Emperor Hadrian, it has a number of levels and some steep stairs to climb. Upon reaching the top you are rewarded with magnificent views of the City of Rome, great for photos. We spent 1.5 hours at the castle, well worth the time and effort.
I had taken this picture of the archangel
not nowing that it was made by a Flemish person.
'Peter Verschaffelt' made it.
Peter Verschaffelt was born in 'Gent ' in 1710.
'Pope Benedictus XIV ' ordered a new angel
after the last one got damaged by bad weather.
You can still see that one in the courtyyard.
In 1752 the present on got inaugurated.
It was in 1798 the French painted it in the
colors of France. Red , white and blue and
putted a Phrygian cap on its head.
They nicknamed it 'Genius of freeing
France and of Rome'.
A really bad joke if you ask me.
But that was nothing compared to what
happened to the 5 angels before this one.
The first added at the end of the 11th century
just faded away since it was made in wood.
The second one in marble was destroyed
by an attack in 1379.
Seventy years later number three was ready.
A marble one with bronze wings. He blew up
when the powder magazine got hit by lightning.
The next one in gilded Bronze , number 4 ,
was melted in 1544 to make cannons.
The fifth one - I already told you..the weather.
This complex started out as the Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum, then in the Middle Ages was made into a fortress, and in the Renaissance was outfitted with papal apartments. A funerary, military, and domestic monument all in one! Great views over Rome from the top. Lungotevere Castello.
Hadrian's Mausoleum was the biggest, most magnificent tomb Rome had ever seen. We cannot tell today what it looked like, but a Byzantine historian of the 6th century did leave a description. From the description, most historians feel that only the Colosseum surpassed it in splendor.
Where that Mausoleum stood, the St. Angel's Castle stands today. It's quite ironic that this castle has angel in its name because it is steeped in lots of bloodshed.
Samples of the bloodshed are the murder of a cardinal, and Pope Clement VII was locked in this fort (a prison really) and watched [through the windows] the awful Sack of Rome by the Constable of Bourbon.
The castle is quite interesting to visit. The photograph shows rock cannonballs stacked in the courtyard.These cannonballs are extremely heavy, and I have a wild imagination so I can just picture the damage one of them could do!
You are able to walk to the top of this circular castle; the views of Rome are excellent. (It's also a great place to photograph the Sant'Angelo Bridge which you just crossed in order to reach here. You can find literature on the history of the castle in the gift shop.
Anyone who is interested in history and architecture, will certainly enjoy touring Sant' Angelo Castle.
Reaching level 4 and 5, I felt much more impressed by the views on Rome than by the papal apartments or the small military museum. For sure the rooms are magnificent with the frescoes and of course the prisons and torture chamber are there to remember that the popes had also a secular authority.
What impressed me really were the views as well from the covered terraces as from the upper panoramic terrace under the statue of the angel. There is even a small café on one of the terraces.
What desolated me is that somebody felt clever to put an antenna just behind the bronze statue of the archangel Michael. I don't know if my compatriot Pieter Verschaffelt who made this statue is happy with that horrible antenna!?
Actually this Flemish sculptor lived in Rome from 1737 till 1752 where a created other works and was called Pietro Il Fiamingo. Later he worked in Mannheim.
But there are the views. From here you can really see that the Quirinal Palace is on a hill, and that the Vittoriano dominates all Rome. It's evident that Rome has hundred of churches with cupolas and very few bell towers. From here you can also distinguish how imposing is the dome of the Pantheon. To the right the most imposing dome of them all St Peters.
I can't understand how Tosca could throw herself from this terrace with such a wonderful view… ah, l'Amore!
Open (2013): Tuesday to Sunday 9 - 19.30 h. Closed on Monday.
Price: ordinary 10,50 €; reduced 7 € for EU citizens 18 - 15 yr. Free for EU citizens less than 18 and more than 65 years old.
It was planned by the emperor Hadrien to be his tomb and was started in 123 a.c. and was called the Hadrien Mausoleum.
Between 275 and 403 , it was fortified to defend from attacks.
It is said it became a castle around the 5th century.
Around 1277, nicolas 3 unitied the castle to the Vatican with a wall called "il passeto".It enabled the popes to go from one to an another.
It took its name "St Angelo castle" in the 12th century after a very old legend: during a procession in 590 to implore the "virgin" to put a stop to the plague, an angel appeared on the top of the Mausoleum, putting back his sword in his sheath in sign of grace.
Castel Sant'Angelo - or, "Castle of the Holy Angel" - sits on the bank of the Tibur due east of Vatican City. The Castle began life as the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian, hence the circular shape of the interior. Later, the tomb was converted into a fortress, and the outer walls were added.
There is still a wall that runs from the Vatican to the Castle, so that in times of danger, the Pope can flee Vatican City to the safety of the Castle (hard to imagine John Paul II fleeing anything).
Inside the Castle is a weapons museum, as well as courtyards containing various definsive weapons. One courtyard also contains one of the previous angels that used to sit on top of the Castle; it had been struck by lightening and partially melted. Ooops.
The photo was made on a bright winter day in December, 1972.