Castel Sant'Angelo from across the Tiber

Castel Sant’Angelo

I spent almost half a day wandering around the Castel Sant’Angelo, poring over every vista, nook, cranny and fragmented rock. I was in photographic heaven. There’s everything inside it to point your lens at from Roman sculptures to fanciful brickwork to Renaissance paintings. The Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the most recognizable structures in Rome. The foundations of it date back over 2000 years to the reign of emperor Hadrian, who had it built as his mausoleum. In the Christian era, the proximity to St. Peter’s and the Vatican palace made it useful not only as a source of marble for construction of churches and apostolic palaces, but as a fortification. The drum-like structure was originally Hadrian’s tomb, and was covered in white marble. A succession of popes built on top of this, had walls with gun emplacements built around it, corridors cut through it, had palatial apartments added on top of it, and used Hadrian’s burial chamber as a dungeon for their most valuable/most hated prisoners. An elevated, sealed corridor with defensive structures runs atop a wall connecting the Vatican apartments to the Castel, enabling the pope to flee to the safety and security of the castle in times of siege. The castle has wells of its own and storage enough to keep its garrison provisioned for up to six months at a time.

This bastion overlooks the entrance gate of the castle that faces the Tiber river and the Angel bridge. Quite the fearsome looking structure, isn’t it?

Bastion, Castel Sant'Angelo
Bastion, Castel Sant’Angelo

Here is perhaps the most famous view of the castle. The statues of angels were added to the bridge in the 16th and 17th centuries, but three of the five arches of the bridge are contemporary with the original construction of Hadrian’s mausoleum. So you’re crossing a 2000-year old span over the Tiber when you use the bridge.

Castel Sant'Angelo from across the Tiber
Castel Sant’Angelo from across the Tiber

This is a view of the bridge from one of the outer bastions over the main gate to the castle. During the Jubilee year of 1450, so many pilgrims crammed onto the bridge that the railings gave way and many plunged into the river to their deaths. Starting in the 1530s, the angels that adorn the bridge began to be added.

Angel Bridge from the Castel Sant'Angelo
Angel Bridge from the Castel Sant’Angelo

Looking down onto the footings of the bridge in the Tiber, we can see some interesting graffiti, particularly the figure of the man holding a woman’s prone form.

Angel Bridge Footings, Tiber River
Angel Bridge Footings, Tiber River

This young man was playing his guitar for tips on the bridge. I think he was consulting his dog as to what to play next.

Busker and dog, Angel Bridge
Busker and dog, Angel Bridge

Moving inside the fortification, these steps emerge from one of the bastion towers to the courtyard that encircles the central drum at its base.

Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo
Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo

Looking out a gun port in the fortifications of the castle, you can see the bridges over the Tiber in the distance.

Gun Port, Castel Sant'Angelo
Gun Port, Castel Sant’Angelo

A newel post topped with a stone sphere on the stairs leading from the inner courtyard toward the Papal apartments:

Stairs, Newel Post, Castel Sant'Angelo
Stairs, Newel Post, Castel Sant’Angelo

These stairs lead to a structure that probably housed Papal guards. The stone lantern atop them is one of several around the fort.

Stairs, Lantern, Castel Sant'Angelo
Stairs, Lantern, Castel Sant’Angelo

A close-up detail of another one of the stone lanterns:

Stone Lantern, Castel Sant'Angelo
Stone Lantern, Castel Sant’Angelo

At the level of the upper courtyard, a statue of the Archangel Michael dominates. Opposite is one of several wells that keep the castle in fresh water in case of siege.

Archangel Michael, Castel Sant'Angelo
Archangel Michael, Castel Sant’Angelo

The fortification is crowned by a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael, drawing his sword. Modern additions have also placed radio aerials on the roof, overtopping the archangel. Technologia Omnia Vincit, as it were.

Archangel Michael, Castel Sant'Angelo Roof
Archangel Michael, Castel Sant’Angelo Roof

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