Castel S. Angelo

It seems that every time rain is expected in torrents over Rome, it proves to be a wonderful day instead…


Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as Mausoleum of Hadrian, is  located on the right bank of the Tiber in front of the Ponte S. Angelo (S. Angelo Bridge)

Pons Aelius or Ponte S. Angelo
Pons Aelius or Ponte S. Angelo

at a short distance from the Vatican, in the district of Borgo; it is connected to the Vatican State through the fortified corridor of the “Passetto di Borgo” (can you see that small passage linking the Castle to the Vatican in the picture below?).

Passetto di Borgo
Passetto di Borgo
The true function of the Passetto was to allow the Pope to take refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo if needed.
One of the first to use the Passetto was Pope Alexander VI who ran to take refuge in the Castle when the militias of Charles VIII of France invaded Rome. It was 1494.
Not even half a century later, in 1527, it was the time of the Sack of Rome by the mercenaries of Charles V. So new flight from the Vatican by Pope Clement VII. New refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo. New “walk” in the papal Passetto. 🙂
The Passetto was also used to conduct in the prisons of Castel Sant’Angelo characters maybe famous but which was better not to know the incarceration (as Beatrice Cenci).

But… back to the “Castle”.

Built around 123 A.D. as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian and his family, Castel Sant’Angelo has an unusual destiny: while all the other Roman monuments are overwhelmed, reduced to ruins or quarries to be recycled into new materials counting, modern buildings, the Castle – through a series of developments and transformations – accompanies for almost two thousand years the fate and history of Rome.

From funerary monument to a fortified outpost, from dark and terrible prison to a splendid Renaissance residence which sees Michelangelo working among its walls, to Risorgimento prison and than museum, Castel Sant’Angelo embodies in its mighty walls and in its sumptuous frescoed halls, the events of the Eternal City where past and present seem inextricably linked.

Absolutely to go, even in silence will be okay.


The legend that links the name of the castle to the Archangel Michael has as its protagonist Gregory I, pope from 590 to 604. Gregory the Great rose to the papal throne in the background of a city in the grip of anarchy and famine. To further complicate an already critical situation there was a disastrous flood of the Tiber – submerging much of the Urbe – and a terrible plague that decimated the poor population. To invoke divine mercy, Pope Gregory organized a procession of three days in which all the citizens took part. When arriving at the mausoleum of Hadrian, the Romans clearly distinguished against the sky the bright silhouette of an angel in the act of storing a flaming sword in its sheath. It was August 29, 590. That same evening the plague ceased…

The Mausoleum of Hadrian became the Angel Castle.


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