Thursday, January 30, 2014

Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo is a large fortress on the banks of the Tiber River. When first built in AD 139, it was the tomb for Emperor Hadrian. Subsequent years saw it used as part of the Aurelian Walls , a medieval citadel, a prison, and a residence for the pope when the city was being attacked. It's now a museum full of its own history and of spectacular views over the city of Rome.

Castel Sant'Angelo

The first level of the interior has some buildings used for administrative purposes now, though it is easy to imagine soldiers stationed here to guard the outer wall of the Castel. Four bastions are located on four corners of the inner wall. The bastions are named after the four evangelists.

Main floor of the castel

Bastion San Marco

Courtyard of cannonballs?

This level of the castle provides some nice views of the city as well as the massive round tower at the center of the castel.

Tiber River

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II

The round tower

Going up another staircase, we crossed a small bridge into the tower and ascended the Staircase of Alexander VI, which cuts through the center of the building. Originally (i.e. in the Hadrian Mausoleum days) a spiral ramp followed along inside the wall up to main rooms. The ramp is still there but the staircase is much more direct.

Stairs up to the bridge

A mighty door with a L-sized door in it!

Going up the staircase!

About halfway up is the Chamber of Urns, where the cremated remains of Hadrian's family had been kept.

Chamber of Urns

At the top of the stairs is the Courtyard of Honor, which had been an ammunition store. Now it is home to one of the previous Saint Michael statues that was placed at the top of the castel.

Entrance to the Courtyard of Honor

An earlier St. Michael statue

The courtyard leads to various museums with artifacts from the history of the castel. Most of the museum is off limits to cameras, but the hall with models of the Mausoleum and the Castel are okay.

Artist's conception of Hadrian's Tomb

Your standard temple

The cut-away of the Pantheon was popular with J and L

Another stairway led us up to the roof which has two items of note. First is the massive bronze statue of Saint Michael the Archangel. The story goes that Pope Gregory the Great had a vision of Saint Michael on top of the castel. The angel indicated that a plague which had struck the city was about to end. The plague did indeed end so the castel was renamed and different statues have adorned the top for centuries.

Side view of the statue

Front view of the statue

The other item of note is the fantastic views over the city of Rome.

J looks out toward the Vatican

The Vatican on its own

Roman domes

Ponte Sant'Angelo

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II

Going back down, we followed an ornate passage around the top that had some nice frescoes and, in the summer, some nice vine cover.

Frescoes along the path

A unicorn!

Would be nicer in spring or summer

We descended through the Courtyard of Alexander VI which has a ballista and the castel's well.

Too exciting for J



We were amazed by the variety of busts found throughout the castel. Here's a sampling...

A bust labeled "Colossal Male Head"

Emperor Hadrian

Unidentified but probably some Renaissance person

Two more emperors

Emperor Voldemort?

The castel was well worth visiting. The kids enjoyed climbing around a bit and we parents enjoyed some history and great views.

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