Castel Sant Angelo facts
This magnificent structure, which overlooks the historic city center of Rome, served as a tomb and a castle for the popes and is now a museum.
Dive in to learn interesting Castel Sant Angelo facts, one of Rome’s most famous structures.
It used to go by another name
The Castel Sant’Angelo was originally a tomb for Hadrian, the Emperor of Rome, from 117 to 138 A.D.
Hadrian’s Mausoleum, Hadrian’s Mole, the Hadrianeum, or the Sepulcrum Antoninorum.
It has the ashes of the Hadrian family
It didn’t merely house Hadrian’s ashes, interred within the Mausoleum a year after he died in 138 A.D.
However, the Mausoleum housed not only his ashes but also those of his wife, Vibia Sabina and his adopted son Lucius Aelius.
The castle had direct access to the Vatican
The Castel Sant’Angelo was a famous hiding location for Popes because of a secret route from the Vatican to the fortress.
This 800-meter-long corridor is called the Passetto di Borgo. Pope Nicholas III built it in the year 1277.
Hadrian outlived both his wife and his son
Surprisingly, Emperor Hadrian was the last of his family to die on July 10, 138.
His wife had died a year before, and his adoptive son Lucius Aelius, heir to the throne, died on January 1, 138.
Hadrian did not get to view the finished Mausoleum
Although he commissioned the construction of his tomb in 134 A.D., he never saw the finished product.
Antoninus Pius, his successor, consecrated it only in 139 A.D.
Augustus was his inspiration
The First Emperor of the Roman Empire governed the city from 27 B.C. until he died in 14 A.D.
He also had a mausoleum built on the other side of the Tiber River for himself.
On top of the Mausoleum stood a statue of Hadrian driving a golden chariot with four horses.
Interesting fact: It used to be Rome’s highest structure!
It is directly across from Augustus’ Mausoleum
Hadrian inspired the tower’s design from his predecessor, who reigned over Rome for over a century.
While Augustus’ Mausoleum is on the Tiber River’s left bank, Hadrian’s is on the river’s right bank. This lies on the western edge of Rome’s historic city center.
The Vatican is just to the west
Hadrian’s Mausoleum is built on the “Parco Adriano,” a central Rome public park immediately east of Vatican City and the Vatican Museums.
You can admire the stunning architecture and discover the facts about Castel Sant Angelo by purchasing tickets to Castel Sant Angelo.
Inspired by a predecessor
Emperor Hadrian left his stamp on Rome, not just by constructing new structures.
The Pantheon, a Roman temple turned into a Catholic cathedral, is one of Rome’s most iconic structures.
Marcus Agrippa built the first structure, followed by a version of Emperor Trajan. Hadrian completed the final version, which is the building we see today.
An incredibly well-preserved bridge crosses the Tiber
The “Ponte Sant’Angelo,” also known as the “Aelian Bridge,” was built by Emperor Hadrian in 134 A.D. and ran directly up to the Castel Sant’Angelo.
It’s one of Rome’s best-preserved ancient Roman bridges, connecting the Campus Martius to Hadrian’s Mausoleum.
The statues were added afterward
Although the bridge itself dates from Hadrian’s reign in the 130s, the statues seen on it are baroque statues that were added later.
They represent angels holding instruments from Christ’s Passion aloft. The Ponte Sant’Angelo is a lovely area for walking and taking in the scenery.
In addition, the bridge is only accessible on foot.
At Gladiator, the evil Emperor was buried in Hadrian’s Mausoleum
Have you seen the film “Gladiator?” The name “Commodus” will undoubtedly ring a bell, as he is the crazy madman / Emperor executing our hero in the Colosseum.
He is one of many emperors buried in Hadrian’s Mausoleum after Hadrian died. Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, and Marcus Aurelius are examples.
Caracalla, the last Roman Emperor to be buried there, died in 217 A.D.
The urns were kept in a separate chamber
The urns containing the ashes of Hadrian and his family and subsequent Emperors were placed deep within the Mausoleum in a room now known as “The Treasury Room.”
Nothing of the remnants remains
Almost everything inside the tomb has been destroyed. This includes the decorations and urns that held the deceased emperors’ ashes.
During the sacking of Rome in 410 A.D., the Visigoths dispersed the ashes from urns.
The brass and stone ornaments intended to embellish Hadrian’s Mausoleum were hurled at the Goths who invaded Rome in 537 A.D.
It was built into the city walls
Much of the decoration had already been lost before the destruction of Rome in 410 A.D.
Flavius Honorius Augustus transformed Hadrian’s Tomb into a military stronghold and included it in the Aurelian Walls.
It was all for naught. The sacking of Rome occurred, which was a big surprise because Rome had not fallen in almost 800 years.
This event was significant in the demise of the Western Roman Empire.
There was a unique survivor
One of the most astonishing facts about the Castel Sant’Angelo is that one of its burial urn capstones made its way to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Even more astonishing is the assumption that this is the capstone of Hadrian’s urn.
It was initially used to cover the burial of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II before being incorporated into a Renaissance Baptistry in the 16th century.
The current name is derived from a fable
Pope Gregory I didn’t like the idea that during the 590 A.D. epidemic, Christians began worshiping a heathen idol at the Santa Agatha church in Rome.
When he and his entourage approached, the thunderclap shattered the idol into thousands of pieces.
He saw Archangel Michael on top of Hadrian’s Mausoleum, wiping the blood from his sword as he crossed the Aelian Bridge to return to St. Peter’s.
The Mausoleum was renamed Sant’Angelo as the Pope interpreted these occurrences as Archangel Michael slaying the heathen idol, which miraculously halted the plague.
The tower was transformed into a castle
The Popes converted the tower into a fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
During the Middle Ages, the fortress was frequently used as a haven for Popes in times of danger.
The castle also served as a prison
It provided a haven for Popes during sieges and other difficult times. It was also used to keep convicts.
Giordano Bruno, a cosmological thinker, was imprisoned for six years and eventually executed because he argued that stars were suns in their solar system.
He was one of the most renowned inmates.
The Castle has been converted into a museum
The castle was decommissioned in 1901 and later became a museum.
The museum’s official name is “Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.” It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist sites.
For example, it was the sixth most popular tourist destination in 2016, with over 1.2 million visits.
Unlock the secrets of history and leap into an unforgettable adventure with the Castel Sant Angelo tickets armed with the facts.
Now that you know the incredible Castel Sant Angelo facts, it’s time to secure your tickets and witness its wonders firsthand.
Featured Image: Wall.alphacoders.com