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Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo (73)

The Castel Sant’Angelo is another of the Italian capital’s emblematic buildings and perhaps the one that has been put to the greatest number of different uses throughout history.

It was built in the year 139 AD as the mausoleum of Hadrian, and on the inside featured three large rooms for the imperial tombs. Later, Aurelian turned the mausoleum into a fortification and surrounded it with walls and towers.

In subsequent centuries it was to become a prison and a papal residence. During the Sack of Rome of 1527, Pope Clement VII used the castle as his refuge. 

Your attention will probably be drawn by its circular structure. You should be aware that the building has a diameter of 64 metres and its structure was originally crowned by a series of trees and a large statue of the emperor. However, if you look upwards towards the top of the castle, what you will see is a figure of the archangel Saint Michael. Legend holds that during the times of the plagues in Rome, Pope Gregory I decided to ask for divine help and headed a great procession towards Saint Peter’s. During the procession, the archangel appeared to him above this place, sheathing a sword. The vision signified an end to the misfortune. This statue was therefore placed high up, and from that time onwards the building was known as Castel Sant’Angelo.

You will notice that the wall has four towers. The two on the bridge side represent the figures of Saint John and Saint Matthew, while the two on the other side are Saint Luke and Saint Mark. 

Once you have entered the castle, remember that it is a veritable maze. It is therefore useful to look at the model in the hall to get an idea of what you are about to visit.

You will find many remarkable things on the inside, a few of which we shall draw your attention to. These include the Cordonata of Alexander VI, a large stairway that crosses the whole building diagonally, and the Courtyard of Honour, the old arsenal that is full of cannonballs. 

Also visit the Hall of Apollo and the Hall of Justice (which was previously a court), the old cells, the papal rooms and the Treasury Chamber, where the Vatican’s secret files were kept. Do not leave, either, without first having gone up onto the roof, which is the setting for the last act of the opera Tosca by Puccini. The site also affords spectacular views of the city.   

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