Castle Sant Angelo
The Castle Sant Angelo is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano.
Castle Sant Angelo, one of the most original monuments in Rome, dates back to the Roman period but has been deeply transformed over the centuries.
At present, its charming and complex structure is due mainly to the presence of different architectural strata. This is evidence of the sedimentation of historical periods and thus of the prime role often played by this monument throughout history. The origin of this monument goes far back in time and its original function was completely different to that of today.
The Castel Sant Angelo was begun in AD 123 as a desire of the emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus, Hadrian - to erect a monumental tomb destined to contain the emperor's ashes and those of his successors. It was finished in 139, a year after the emperor's death, by his successor Antoninus Pious; the Castle Sant Angelo was then used up to the year 217 as a sepulchral for the Antonine family. A specific site was chosen for the construction of the monument. Though on the river edge, the Castle Sant Angelo was built on very solid ground and in an area previously used as a cemetery. The Castle Sant Angelo was then linked to the rest of the city by means of a bridge named Alias, one of the emperor's names. As far as the structural and decorative aspects of the building are concerned, the original layout of the mausoleum is still uncertain.
The Castle Sant Angelo was probably composed of at least three overlaid architectural bodies - a square base, a large cylindrical body, and a third and last piece. The latter was cylindrical too, but smaller in diameter and consisted of two overlaid orders, on the top of which the statue of Hadrian pulling a quadriga (chariot drawn by four horses) was probably placed.
From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance In the Middle Ages the Castle Sant Angelo was given a new function and was transformed from a mausoleum into a fortress. As a consequence, its architectural layout was also modified. These changes took place over ten centuries, i.e. since the building was linked to the town walls, built around Rome by the emperor Aurelian (AD 271), to the works promoted by Pope Boniface IX (1389-1404) and carried out by Nicolo Lamberti, a military architect. The defensive role of the castle was due to its being in a controlling position with respect to the northern access route to the city. Moreover, the significance of this role grew in time in relation to the importance acquired by the area named Borgo, spreading around Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican City. In the Middle Ages the possession of the castle (which takes its name from an ancient legend about the apparition of the Archangel Michael on the summit of the monument in 590 during a plague) was the cause of a dispute between the most powerful Roman families, until the Papal Court, after a period in Avignon (1305-1377), came back to Rome and took possession of the building definitely. Radical interventions were carried out in order to make the castle a safe defensive place for the Pope and for the Borgo citadel. At the base of the cylindrical body a circular internal passageway was created. The spiral ramp and the large Roman entrance atrium were closed.
The bastions at the corners of the square walls, which had replaced the base dating back to the Roman period, were strengthened. Furthermore, a cylindrical fortified tower was built at the opening of the Pons Aelius in order to control the access route to the castle and to the adjacent Borgo citadel. Around the walls a moat was created with water from the Tiber.
A new bronze statue representing the Archangel Michael was placed on the top of the tower, replacing the marble statue, now in the Courtyard of the Angel. The last relevant modifications of the front part of the castle date back to the years between 1889 and 1906. They were essentially demolition works due to the construction of a road along the banks of the Tiber. With this scope in mind, all the parts of the castle looking towards the river were demolished and rebuilt and, at the same time, the road was raised, thus reducing the height of the facade of the castle. By 1925, at the end of the restoration works carried out by Mariano Borgatti, General of Military Engineering, the castle definitively lost its military function, and the National Museum of Castle Sant Angelo was then created to house art and history collections.
Attractions located near Castle Sant Angelo