Tag Archives: Castel Sant’Angelo

More Tiny Contact Prints

Here is the continuation of the tiny prints series. All of these are still from Rome, again the Lomo Belair X6-12 as the camera of choice. I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend about these and while sharing them online is great, seeing scans of them at what ends up being a much larger size than the actual print, they lose some of their impact.

This is a statue of the Archangel Michael, in the Castel Sant’Angelo. His body is stone but the wings are bronze.

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

The umbrella pine image is one of those that when I scanned the negative and worked with the image in Photoshop, all the “flaws” of the negative become quite apparent, and you start thinking it’s not a successful image. But contact printed, it cleans up nicely and really sings.

Roman Umbrella Pine
Roman Umbrella Pine

St. Peter’s Basilica Facade. This is one of the images that made me respect the Belair and its results more than I did initially. It’s still not going to ever match a serious panorama camera like a Horseman 6×12 with a highly corrected glass lens, but it does a great job for what it is, and certainly it scores extremely well in the value-for-money proposition – I got mine used for $200, whereas a used Horseman would set you back closer to $2000.

St. Peter's Facade
St. Peter’s Facade

The plaza in front of St. Peter’s was set up for a Papal Mass when I was there. The sea of folding chairs made for an interesting composition, leading your eye back to the obelisk and beyond.

St. Peter's Plaza
St. Peter’s Plaza

These are the famous three remaining columns of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. This one really strikes me because of the simple, graphic nature of the subject. It’s another one of those images that everyone photographs when they’re at the Forum, and everyone knows it, even if you haven’t ever been to the Forum. Printing in platinum/palladium takes it somewhere new and different and it doesn’t feel like just another tourist image.

Three Columns, Temple of Vesta, Roman Forum
Three Columns, Temple of Vesta, Roman Forum

All these images are platinum/palladium prints, in this case all are a 50/50 blend of platinum and palladium, on the new wonderful Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper. I’m going to have to try a pure platinum print with it next and see how it behaves.

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

Pair of Roman Busts, Castel Sant’Angelo

These two pieces are quite moody, and that somber undertone of them inspired me. From their weathered appearance to the various forms of damage they’ve taken over the centuries, they act as a kind of memento mori to remind us that even art in marble will eventually die.

I’ve joked to friends that this one is proof that there were zombies in ancient Rome – but in fact the damage to the face is probably caused by relatively contemporary rivals seeking to damage the visage of a now-dead adversary, or inadvertent blows from overzealous Renaissance-era treasure hunters or clumsy builders trying to clear debris in preparation for fortifying the former Imperial tomb.

Roman Bust
Roman Bust

This one has suffered different indignities – while his visage remains relatively intact, at some point his head was separated from his shoulders, and later re-attached.

Bearded Bust
Bearded Bust

Just for the record, to the best of my knowledge there were no zombies running around ancient Rome.

The Archangel Michael, Castel Sant’Angelo

The statue of the Archangel Michael in the inner courtyard of the Castel Sant’Angelo. This is at the mid-level courtyard after ascending the ramp that passes through the crypt of Hadrian/castle dungeon. around it are numerous Roman marble busts in various nooks, and a well for providing water to the Papal apartments above.

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

The statue dominates the courtyard, though, with its bronze wings patina’d green and weathered countenance.

Window, Castel Sant’Angelo

Window, Castel SantAngelo
Window, Castel SantAngelo

I found this composition while walking the ramparts and courtyards of the Castel Sant’Angelo, which is a very easy place to get lost in if you’re not paying attention. There are so many levels and layers, both physically and historically. The building was built originally as the funerary monument for the Roman emperor Hadrian. Later it was converted into a fortress for the protection and safety of the Pope. A residential suite complete with reception rooms and treasury (three massive barred iron chests with multiple locks, each of which only one person had the key to, so it would require all the key holders to open each chest) and balconies with sweeping panoramic views of the city were put on the upper tier, and the burial chamber of the emperor Hadrian was converted into a dungeon where prisoners could be thrown to wither and die in darkness and misery.

Tiber Panorama, from Castel Sant’Angelo

Tiber Panorama
Tiber Panorama

This is a panorama I took of the bend in the Tiber river just in front of the Castel Sant’Angelo, from the castle’s ramparts. St. Peter’s is to the right, out of view. If you look at the bridge in the background, you can see the keyhole arches in the supporting piers which are there to help the bridge not get washed away in time of flooding. There are a number of bridges across the Tiber with this feature, including the famous “Ponte Rotto” (Broken Bridge), which you’ll see in some other shots I’ll post later.

This was taken with my Belair X6-12 camera. As you can see, it’s a pretty soft lens, combined with what was probably a pretty slow shutter speed (1/30th, 1/15th? with this camera, who knows- it sets it automatically for you and doesn’t tell you what it used). But it has a look to it, and the negative isn’t unusable.