From mausoleum to fortress, from horrible prison to renaissance house where also Michelangelo worked, from Risorgimento prison to museum, Castel Sant'Angelo bears the memories of the Eternal City in its grand rooms, solid walls and elegant frescoes, where past and present are indissolubly linked to each other. The Mausoleum of Adrian or Castle of the Holy Angel, is located on the right bank of the Tiber, opposite to the Sant’Angelo Bridge near the Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, in the Borgo district.
Castel Sant'Angelo was initially erected as a mausoleum by Roman emperor Hadrian around 123 A.D. in a border area of the ancient Rome, and it was used as a tomb until approximately 403 A.D., when Emperor Honorius ordered its inclusion in the Aurealian Walls.
Since then, it was used as castellum (fortress) to protect the city. Several Roman families competed for its possession: senator Teofilatto, the Crescenzis, the Pierleonis, and the Orsinis. It was a memeber of Orsini family, Pope Nicholas III, who connected the castle to St. Peter's Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. In 1367 the building went to Pope Urban V, and since then many Popes used the Passetto di Borgo as a refuge during dangerous times.
Thanks to it massive, fortified structure and its fame as an impregnable fortress, the Castle hosted the Archive and the Vatican Treasure, but it was also used as a Court and a prison (Giordano Bruno and Beatrice Cenci were imprisoned there).
Still today visit the castle is a source of amazement thanks to the magnificent views of Rome that can be admired from the heights of the castle. Here you will find also interesting exhibitions and in summer the gardens of the castle houses many events: music, food and readings brighten up the hot summer evenings in Rome.
Being in a central location will allow you to easily reach Saint Peter’s, Sant’Angelo Bridge, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon by feet.
The statue of an angel drawing his sword is located on top of the building, reminding of Pope Gregory Magnum's vision during a procession to pray God to end the plague.
The original statue was wooden, but it worn out. A second marble statue was destroyed in 1379 during a siege and replaced in 1453 with a marble angel with bronze wings. The angel was destroyed in 1479 by a thunderbolt and replaced with a golden-bronze angel, which was melted in 1527 in order to manufacture cannons. A marble statue with bronze wings by Raffaello da Montelupo followed (now in the yard of the Castle) and, finally, in 1753 the current bronze angel by Pierre van Verschaffelt.