Passetto di Borgo
The stone Passetto di Borgo at Castel Sant Angelo, which stretches 2,600 feet from Vatican City to the Castel, appears to the human eye to be a simple fortress.
The Passetto was constructed with a series of arches and buttresses designed to support the walls’ weight and provide a safe passage for the popes.
However, within its walls lies a passageway several popes utilize as an emergency escape route.
This secret corridor connects the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican and plays a significant role in the city’s turbulent past.
Purchase the ticket to Castel Sant’Angelo online and get a fascinating chance to travel down memory lane.
A large army of 35,000 mercenaries and soldiers came to Rome on 6 May, 1527.
But only a tiny local militia and the Pope’s unique Swiss Guard were present to protect the city.
As the defenses crumbled and raiders entered the city, Clement VII was taken into a centuries-old hidden corridor leading to the powerfully guarded Castel Sant’Angelo.
Invaders got inside the basilica, fighting the Swiss Guard on its steps as the Pope retreated down the tunnel.
Only 42 of the 189 Swiss Guards on duty that day survived.
The city fell quickly, and the Pope was imprisoned for a month in the Castel while the city was ravaged.
It was stated that the population of Rome fell from 55,000 to 10,000 during that time as citizens were slain or fled for their lives.
The Pope escaped to Orvieto dressed as a peddler after paying a ransom and being imprisoned by invading forces for another five months.
The Passetto di Borgo is another old fortress wall with a secret passageway at the top.
It was rebuilt and completed by Borgia Pope Alexander VI in 1492, just in time for him to use it to flee invading Frenchmen two years later.
For years after the last papal escape, the Passetto sat in disrepair, barred to visitors (although the Swiss Guard has always kept a key ready for the Pope in case of another emergency).
The Passetto was refurbished and temporarily reopened in 2000 to commemorate the Pope’s Jubilee year.
The city from above can be seen while exploring the al Passetto di Borgo Rome.
With the Castel Sant Angelo entry ticket, you can get a chance to step foot on the same path that protected popes and witnessed daring escapes throughout history.
Every year on 6 May, the Vatican’s Swiss Guard honors the fallen heroes of 1527 by launching new members.
Featured Image: Petr polak