Castel Sant'Angelo / Mausoleum of Hadrian

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The recostruction of Castel Sant' Angelo as it was in the period of ancient Rome 
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Painting by Caspar Van Wittel from the early 18th century
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click the image to see the section of the Mausoleum
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click to zoom the image of Hall of Apollo  - the room is frescoed with scenes from mythology attributed to the pupils of Perin del Vega (1548)
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The Sant' Angelo Bridge over the Tiber river

Castel S. Angelo, whose imposing mass still dominates the panorama of Rome, and which is known as the Mole Adriana, was not originally built for defensive purposes but as the funeral monument of the emperors. A new bridge (called Pons Aelms from the nomen of the emperor) which still exists as Ponte S. Angelo was built to put the monument in communication with the Campus Martius. This bridge flanks Nero's bridge, further down-stream. It consisted of three large central arches and two inclined ramps supported by three smaller arches on the right bank and two on the left bank. Most of the structural parts of the Mausoleum, which was incorporated into Castel S. Angelo in the Middle Ages, have been preserved. The building consisted of an enormous quadrangular basement, 89 m. per side and 15 m. high. On top was a cylindrical drum (diam. 64 m., height 21 m.) flanked by radial walls. A tumulus of earth planted with trees rose up over the drum. Along the edges were decorative marble statues and at the centre, raised even higher up, was a podium with columns on top of which was a bronze quadriga with the statue of Hadrian. The exterior of the enclosure was faced with Luna marble and with inscriptions of the tjtuli of the personages buried in the monument; engaged pilasters were set at the corners and the upper part was decorated with a frieze of garlands and bucrania (fragments are preserved in the Museo del Castello). The drum was faced on the outside with travertino and fluted pilaster strips. The entire monument was enclosed in a wall with bronze gates, decorated with peacocks (two are in the Vatican), perhaps a funerary symbol.
The original entrance to the tomb, with three openings, was on the side of the base that faces the river. The current entrance is at least three meters higher up. From here a corridor (dromos) led to a square vestibule with a semi-circular alcove on the back wall, faced with yellow Numidian marble. The helicoidal gallery which rises ten meters and leads to the funeral chamber begins to the right of the vestibule. The vault of this corridor, with four vertical light wells, is in rubblework; the pavement still retains traces of its original mosaic decoration while the walls were covered with marble to a height of three meters.The Funeral chamber, right at the center of the massive drum, is square ( 3m. per side) with three rectangular niches; illumination is from two oblique windows in the vault. The cinerary urns of the emperors were placed in this room. Above the funerary chamber where two  superposed cellae which by means of an annular corridor led to the top of the monument.
As early as A.D. 403 the emperor Honorius may have in corporated the building in an outpost bastion of the Aurelian walls. In 537, when it was already a fortress, it was attacked by Vitiges and bis Goths. In the 10th century it was transformed into a castle. Its appearance today is that of a massive fortress on a square base and with circular towers at the four corners (known as the towers of St. Matthew, St. John, St. Mark, and St. Luke) onto which a circular body has been grafted. This was built following the lines of the Imperial mausoleum under Benedict IX. Further work was ordered by Alexander VI and by Julius II who had the south loggia above the papal apartments added.
At the summit is the panoramic terrace, watched over by :he Angel about to fly off, which seems to be why the building is called as it is, for the winged messenger is said to have saved Rome from a terrible plague at the time of Gregory the Great.
Inside the castle-fortress are the rooms of the Museo Nazionale Militare and of Art.

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Saint Angelo's Castle by night

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Saint Angelo's Castle by night
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click to zoom the view from the air

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click to zoom the image of Courtyard of Honour, once the castle ammunition store

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Sala Paolina - the illusionistic frescoes by Perin de Vega and Pellegrino Tibaldi (1544 - 7)

photos of Castel Sant Angelo by Pietro Ceschel

Photos of Castel Sant Angelo by Pietro Ceschel - Romeguide- image 022 Photos of Castel Sant Angelo by Pietro Ceschel - Romeguide- image 008 dipinto.jpg (34913 byte)
Protecting the Pope - The Vatican Corridor leads from the Vatican Palace to Castel Sant' Angelo. It was built in 1277 to provide an escape route when the pope was in danger. Photos of Castel Sant Angelo by Pietro Ceschel - Romeguide- image 022( above) and below image o28. Photos of Castel Sant Angelo by Pietro Ceschel - Romeguide- image 008
Disegno di Caspar Van Wittel 

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Cooperativa IL SOGNO - Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/ - Fax 06/

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Rome, initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum.

Hadrian's tomb

A view of Rome from atop the castle. Saint Peter's Basilica can be seen on the far left.The tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian was erected on the right bank of the Tiber, between 135 and 139. Originally the mausoleum was a decorated cylinder, with a garden top and golden quadriga. Hadrian's ashes were placed here a year after his death in Baiae in 138, together with those of his wife Sabina, and his first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, who also died in 138. Following this, the remains of succeeding emperors were also placed here, the last recorded deposition being Caracalla in 217. The urns containing these ashes were probably placed in what is now known as the Treasury room deep within the building. Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius facing straight onto the mausoleum – it still provides a scenic approach from the center of Rome and the right bank of the Tiber, and is renowned for the Baroque additions of statuary of angels holding aloft elements of the Passion of Christ.

Much of the tomb contents and decoration has been lost since the building's conversion into a military fortress in 401 and inclusion by Flavius Augustus Honorius in the Aurelian Walls. The urns and ashes were scattered by Visigothic looters in Alaric's sack of Rome in 410, and the original decorative bronze and stone statuary was thrown down upon the attacking Goths when they besieged Rome in 537, as recounted by Procopius. An unusual survival, however, is the capstone of a funerary urn (most probably that of Hadrian), which made its way to Saint Peter's Basilica and was recycled in a massive Renaissance baptistery. That spolia from the tomb had been used in the post-Roman period was already noted in the 16th century - Giorgio Vasari writes:

Verschaffelt's order to build churches for the use of the Christians, not only were the most honoured temples of the idols [ie pagan Roman gods] destroyed, but in order to ennoble and decorate Saint Peter's with more ornaments than it then possessed, they took away the stone columns from the tomb of Hadrian, now the castle of Sant'Angelo, as well as many other things which we now see in ruins.

Legend holds that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590, thus lending the castle its present name.

Papal fortress, residence and prison

Bathroom of Pope Clement VII.The popes converted the structure into a castle, from the 14th century; Pope Nicholas III connected the castle to St. Peter's Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. The fortress was the refuge of Pope Clement VII from the siege of Charles V's Landsknecht during the Sack of Rome (1527), in which Benvenuto Cellini describes strolling the ramparts and shooting enemy soldiers.

Leo X built a chapel with a fine Madonna by Raffaello da Montelupo. In 1536 Montelupo also created a marble statue of Saint Michael holding his sword after the 590 plague (as described above) to surmount the Castel.[2] Later Paul III built a rich apartment, to ensure that in any future siege the Pope had an appropriate place to stay.

Montelupo's statue was replaced by a bronze statue of the same subject, executed by the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt, in 1753. Verschaffelt's is still in place, though Montelupo's can be seen in an open court in the interior of the Castle.

The Papal state also used Sant'Angelo as a prison; Giordano Bruno, for example, was imprisoned there for six years. Executions were made in the small interior square. As a prison, it was also the setting for the third act of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca from whose ramparts the eponymous heroine of the opera leaps to her death.

Decommissioned in 1901, the castle is now a museum, the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo.

Popular culture
The Castel Sant'Angelo appeared in Dan Brown's 2000 novel Angels and Demons. The location was the secret lair for the Hassassin and is the last existing church of the Illuminati.

The castle appeared in the film Roman Holiday in a scene taking place on barges on the river below.

In Eric Flint's alternative history novel 1635: The Cannon Law, the castle is the scene of intense fighting, and is largely destroyed.

In Puccini's opera, Tosca, the Castel is where the quarter's of Scarpia are, and where Cavadarossi is held prisoner, tortured and executed. At the end of the Opera, Tosca leaps to her death from its battlements.

Scarpia's quarters and the place of torture is actually in the Palazzo Farnese. After murdering Scarpia in his private room at the Palazzo, Floria Tosca goes to the Castel Sant' Angelo, safe conducts in hand, where her lover, Mario Cavaradossi is to be executed. She has been led to believe it will be a mock execution and is horrified to find her lover dead. Rather than be arrested by Scarpia's henchmen, she throws herself from the rooftop.

Info and reservation:

Cooperativa IL SOGNO - Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/ - Fax 06/

Email :


Info and reservation:

Cooperativa IL SOGNO - Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/ - Fax 06/

Email :