Rome has many beautiful bridges but Ponte Sant'Angelo is a knockout. Built by Hadrian as an avenue across the Tiber to his mausoleum (or Hadrianeum), it dates from the 2nd century and was originally named "Pons Aelius" (Bridge of Hadrian) in his honor. The ten angels on either side were designed by Bernini in 1669 and most were carved by his pupils but two by the master himself - considered by the Pope who commissioned them to be too lovely to expose to the elements - were later given to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte; copies were put in their places. The bridge is only open to pedestrians so it's an excellent way to get to Hadrian's former resting place and the Prati area with no motorini to dodge.
The bridge and mausoleum were re-titled by Pope Gregory in the 6th century after a vision he'd had of Archangel Michael whom he credited with ending a terrible plague. That's Michael you see triumphantly sheathing his sword on the top of the castel.
So the mausoleum Hadrian built the bridge for is now known as Castel Sant'Angelo, and his remains have left the building. Just as Roman temples and basilicas were recycled into churches, the emperor's former tomb saw duty as a fortress, prison, execution site, and hideout for Popes in times of unrest. An escape route was built from the Vatican to this fortified structure in the 13th century. Now a museum, we ran out of time before getting to this one but views from upper terrace are supposed to be terrific.
The bridge is free: walk it often!
Visiting info for Castel Sant'Angelo:
The Bridge of Angels that was constructed by the Emperor Aelius Hadrian across the Tiber to access to his mausoleum which is the now the 'Castle of Angels' (it was converted as a fortress by the Popes in the middle ages).
The bridge itself is decorated with ten statues of angels based on designs by Bernini in the 17th century. It symbolises the transformation of Rome from the centre of the Roman Empire into the centre of Christianity.
If this bridge across the Tiber could talk, what a tale it would tell. Originating from the second century AD, the bridge was built by the Emperor Hadrian and led to his mausoleum. The current bridge was was built in 1450 after the original bridge buckled under the weight of hundreds of visiting pilgrims who perished in the Tiber.
Bernini is responsible for the statues of the angels bearing the tools of the Passion.
At one time, around the sixteenth century, the bridge was used to display the bodies of executed felons.
Today it is strictly a pedestrian bridge.
Ponte Sant'Angelo is one of Rome's most famous bridges linking the city with Castel Sant'Angelo across the Tiber River. The existing bridge was built in the 15th century, but was not given its current look until the 18th century when Rome's famous architect, Bernini, restored the bridge and decorated it with beautiful statues that he designed himself. The bridge's predecessor had existed since Roman times.
The public foot bridge leading to the Castel Sant’Angelo is a beautiful bridge that crosses the Tiber in front of the Castel. Like the Castel, it was originally built during the time of Emperor Hadrian.
Along both sides of the bridge are ten statues of angels, each holding an instrument of Christ’s passion (such as nails, dice, a robe, the cross, etc.). These statues, designed by Bernini, were commissioned by Clement VII in 1534 (after his release as prisoner in the Castel Sant’Angelo where he stayed following the sack of Rome in 1527. Most of these statues are still the originals, although two (the ones primarily worked on by Bernini himself rather than his pupils) are on display in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte with copies in their places on the bridge.
Hubby and I enjoyed a pleasant stroll across the bridge and then back again. In the center of the bridge, under one of the statues, two men were playing the most beautiful music using various sizes of glass tubes and wine glasses. It was amazing and I could’ve stood there and listened for a long time. The looks in their faces told how much they loved the music.
The bridge is definitely worth a walk to – it isn’t far from St. Peter’s Basilica and can be a way to cross over to the older section of town near the Piazza Navona and the many churches of Rome.
“O blithe little soul, thou, flitting away,
Guest and comrade of this my clay,
Whither now goest thou, to what place
Bare and ghastly and without grace?
Nor, as thy wont was, joke and play.”
a verse composed by Emperor Hadrian (AD 76–AD 138) as he lay dying
A BRIDGE TO A FORMER TOMB As seen in Parts I & II, these10 Bernini angels line the sides of the Ponte Sant’Angelo (Holy Angel Bridge), which leads to the Castel Sant’Angelo (Holy Angel Castle). The castle was once the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian. Constructed between AD 135 and AD 139, much of the tomb’s contents, including the emperor’s ashes, those of his wife Sabina, and those of his first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, and its decoration had been lost by the time it became a fortress in AD 401. In the 14th century it was converted into a castle. The castle is a National Museum that is open to the public.
For more on the Castel Sant’Angelo please my following tip, “Archangel Michael at Castel Sant’Angelo” in my Rome Tips section.
My favorite angel of the 10 is among this second group of five; it is the Angel with the Cross. It has such uplifting grace and beauty.
The celebrated Ponte Sant'Angelo, the ancient Pons Aelius or Pons Adrianus crossing the Tiber, was built by Hadrian in 134 AD as a fitting approach to his mausoleum.
Ten statues of angels, by pupils of Bernini (1688 to his design) stand along the balustrade of the bridge. The central three arches that support the bridge or of the original structure, while the end arches were restored and enlarged in 1892-94 during the construction of the Lungotevere embankments.
“And so it is that Rome fairly suffocates with its endless variety of artistic perfection, one glory almost dimming the other while the rest of the world yearns for a crust of artistic beauty and has nothing.”
from “A Traveler at Forty” by Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945)
THE BRIGHTEST GLORY As part of a general reconstruction project for Ponte Sant’Angelo, it was decided to decorate the bridge as well. The commission to carve the 10 angels, each carrying an instrument of Christ’s Passion, came from Pope Clement IX when Gianlorzeno Bernini (1598–1680) was 70. While most of the figures were executed to Bernini’s design by his assistants between 1660 and 1668, the carving of the Angel with the Crown of Thorns (see Photo #2) and the Angel with the Superscript (see Photo #4) was reserved for the master’s touch.
This remains my favorite sight in Rome. Such vibrancy each sculpture has, such life!
The Tiber bridge Ponte St. Angelo connects Rome with the papal castle Castello St. Angelo and is decorated with angel sculptures from Bernini on either side. In my opinion the most beautiful bridge in all of Rome.
This bridge was built at the same time with Sant'Angelo mausoleum, in 130 A.D., by the Emperor Hadrian. It was initially called Ponte Elio. The rows of angels were sculpted by the followers of Bernini.
This bridge was built by Hadrian around 135AD as an appropriate approach to his mausoleum. It is one of the nicest bridges with Rome, especiallay with the 10 Bernini scultpures along the rails of the bridge. The area is awash with street vendors, so if you are looking for that knock off Prada or Gucci purse, this is the place.
This is a beautiful bridge to walk across & a must see on your way to the Vatican. If you take the Vatican Tour with Romeing Tours they will take you to the Vatican through this way. It is truly a beautiful site.