From the bridge called “Ponte dell’Angelo”, (the ancient Pons Aelius that linked it to the Campus Martius), considered today as one of the most romantic and evocative of the Eternal City, our archaeologists will have the pleasure to lead you to the discovery of Castel Sant’Angelo the ancient mausoleum began around 135 AD and completed by Antoninus Pius in 139 A.D. to bury the emperor Publius Aelius Adrianus and his family.
The current name of “Castel Sant’Angelo” was given to this monument by 590 AD, the year in which the city of Rome was devastated by a terrible plague. As a result of this plague, a solemn procession was organized which was attended also by the pope of that time, Gregory I (590 – 604 AD), that, in the vicinity of the construction of Hadrian, he saw the Archangel Michael putting back his sword. The vision was interpreted as a foreshadowing of the end of the plague, fact that then really happened. From that day onwards, the Romans began to call this building “Castel Sant’Angelo” and, in memory of the miracle, they crowned the summit of the monument with a statue of an angel that puts the sword in its sheath.
Like many monuments that make up the rich archaeological and artistic heritage of Rome, the building, over time, has been the subject of numerous architectural transformations and changes of function that have marked its history to the present day.
Transformed first into a military fortress, when the Emperor Honorius included it in the boundary of the Aurelian Walls as a bulwark in defense advanced beyond the Tiber in Rome, Castel Sant’Angelo, connected to the Vatican City with the famous “Passetto” (built around 1277 by Nicholas III, the first pope who moved the papal residence from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican, surrounded by fortified walls of the Leonine Civitas) was for many centuries a place of refuge in case of danger of the popes.
During the nineteenth century it was used exclusively as a political prison and then was transformed into barracks with the unification of Italy.
Since 1925, the date of its establishment, Castel Sant’Angelo became a museum frequented by millions of visitors eager to learn about its structure and its rich collections of artifacts and paintings that hosts internally, as well as exhibitions and temporary displays that are numerous during the year.