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Il Castel Sant'Angelo
A Combination of Ancient Rome and Angels!


In Rome, there is a famous building called il Castel Sant' Angelo. - the Castle of the Holy Angel. 
It was built beside the River Tiber - il Tevere - around the year 134 A.D. by Roman Emperor Hadrian. 
In Italian he is known as l'Imperatore Adriano.   

This emperor is also famous for commanding the construction of Hadrian's Wall in the north of England.  In Italian, the wall is called il Vallo di Adriano.  Below there are images of a bust of Emperor Hadrian (visible at Musei Capitolini) and a surviving section of the famous wall in England.


Il Castel Sant'Angelo was intended to be the mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian.  The original name for the building was il Mausoleo di Adriano - Hadrian's Mausoleum.   This means that the emperor designed and constructed his own tomb! 

However, the building work was to go even further!.......


In addition, the emperor arranged for the construction of a bridge to span the River Tiber and to lead to his grand tomb.  The bridge was called Hadrian's Bridge - il Ponte di Adriano.

Image by Willian West

Over the centuries, the mausoleum has been used as a castle, a military fortress and as a prison.

In the late 6th. century,  there was a terrible outbreak of the plague.  In Italian, it is called la peste.  The people of Rome were suffering dreadfully and believed that God was punishing them.   

According to the legend,  the Archangel Michael appeared on the rooftop of the mausoleum and announced to the people that the plague was now going to end.   The angel's words were true because the plague ended immediately!

In gratitude to the Archangel Michael, the names of both the mausoleum and the bridge were changed to il Castel Sant'Angelo - the Castle of the Holy Angel and  il Ponte Sant'Angelo - the Bridge of the Holy Angel. 

A statue of the Archangel Michael - San Michele Arcangelo - was placed on the rooftop of the mausoleum.  Its positioning re-enacts the apparition of the angel to the plague-stricken people in the 6th century. 

The current bronze statue was created by the Flemish sculptor Pieter Antoon Verschaffelt and replaced an earlier one.  (Images below)

Image by Michele Bitetto
Statue of Saint Michael at the top of Sa

In 1669, the famous artist and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was asked by the Pope to design ten statues of angels to be placed along the sides of the bridge.


Each angel holds an item that belongs to the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus.

The angel statues were sculpted by different artists according to the designs of Bernini

Each angel has a name:
1.  Angelo con la Colonna - Angel with the Column
(sculptor: Antonio Raggi)

2.  Angelo con i Flagelli - Angel with the Whips
(sculptor:  Lazzaro Morelli) 

3.  Angelo con la Corona di Spine - Angel with the Crown of Thorns(sculptor:  the original statue was created by Bernini and is visible in the church called la basilica di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.  A copy of this statue was created by Paolo Naldini and placed on the bridge.)

4.  Angelo con la Spugna - Angel with the Sponge (sculptor:  Antonio Giorgetti)


Angel with the Whips


Angel with the Crown of Thorns


Angel with the Sponge

5.  Angelo con il Volto Santo - Angel with Veronica's Veil
(sculptor:  Cosimo Fancelli)

6.  Angelo con la Veste e i Dadi  - Angel with the Garment and the Dice
(sculptor:  Paolo Naldini)

7.  Angelo con i Chiodi - Angel with the Nails
(sculptor:  Girolamo Lucenti)

8.  Angelo con la Croce  - Angel with the Cross
(sculptor:  Ercole Ferrata)

9.  Angelo con il Cartiglio  - Angel with the Superscription
(sculptor:  the original statue was created by Bernini and is visible in the church called
la basilica di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.  A copy of this statue was created by Giulio Cartari with the assistance of Bernini himself and placed on the bridge.)

10.  Angelo con la Lancia - Angel with the Lance
(sculptor:  Domenico Guidi)

Above: image of the bridge, Wikimedia.


The castle and bridge certainly have a long and interesting history.  What would Imperatore Adriano say about the changes that have been made to his building-work? 

That would be a very interesting conversation!

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