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Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel), Rome

Overview

Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo

The Castel Sant'Angelo was originally called The Mausoleum of Hadrian (also called Hadrian's mole because of its shape) and was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and built as a Mausoleum for him and his family. Initially it was a cylindric shaped building with a garden atop. Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius, present Sant'Angelo Bridge, facing straight onto the mausoleum. Hadrian's ashes, his wife's, son's and several other Roman Emperors' were placed here, the last one being for the Roman Emperor Caracalla in 217 AD. The building was converted in 401 AD to a military fortress, and the tomb's decorations and contents were lost. Later it was renamed to Castel Sant'Angelo. The name seems to come from a legend stating that Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590 AD. A more elaborate version of the legend says that Pope Gregory I had a vision of an angel atop the castle, after he led a procession to the church of Santa Agata in Suburra, and a pagan idol there miraculously fell apart, destroyed. In 1536 a statue of the archangel was added atop Castel Sant'Angelo, created in marble by Montelupo. In the 14th century the building was converted to a fortified castle, and Passetto di Borgo, a fortified secret corridor, was built to connected it to Saint Peter's Basilica. Later it was used as a prison by the Papal state, with executions being performed in the small interior courtyard. Since 1901 the castle was transformed in a museum.