Castel Sant’Angelo (or Castle of the Holy Angel), our tour’s subject, is the result of the transformation of the funeral monument of the emperor Hadrian. The construction of the mausoleum started in 130 a.D., inspired from the mausoleum of Augustus, and it has been completed only after the death of Antoninus Pius, in 139 a.D.
Castel Sant’Angelo, which is located on the right side of the Tiber river, has been connected to Campo Marzio with the ponte Elio (built in 134 a.D.), later renamed ponte Sant’Angelo, when the bridge was decorated with 10 marble statues of angels (between 1667 and 1669).
Castel Sant’Angelo gained for the first time the name of castellum in 403 a.D., when it has been included into the Aurelian Walls. It gained its actual name in 590 a.D., in commemoration to a vision which Pope Gregory I had during a procession: the Archangel Michael, in the act of sheathing his sword.
During the medieval and renaissance ages, the monument was strongly modified: it has been used mostly as prison, so it has been strongly fortified.
In the second half of the XIII century, Castel Sant’Angelo was connected to the Vatican with the Passetto di Borgo, built for the will of Pope Niccolò III.
The castle became the safe place of the Popes, during the dangerous times and it also started to host the luxury residences (decorated by the hand of many artists as Leon Battista Alberti, San Gallo il Vecchio, San Gallo il Giovane, Bramante) of many Popes: Niccolò V, who provided the top of Castel Sant’Angelo with a statue of an angel; Alessandro VI Borgia (whose rooms has been decorated by Pinturicchio), and Giulio II della Rovere, who made build the loggia superiore (superior lodge) and the stufetta (a private toilet).
The pentagonal walls with bastions, surrounded by a moat, has been designed by Francesco Laparelli in the second half of the XVI century.
From 1800, Castel Sant’Angelo has been used mostly as a political prison; after the Unification of Italy, it has been converted in a museum.