Castel Sant’Angelo: a medieval fortress in Rome city center

Castel Sant'Angelo in RomeNo great city could be complete without a castle. Rome has one too. Like everything else in Rome Castel Sant’Angelo has a long and varied history.

Originally built by Hadrian from 135 to 139 as a tomb for himself and his family. This then became a traditional burial place for the emperors of Rome. The last emperor recorded being interred here was Caracalla in 212.

In 401 it was then converted into a fortress and sadly, this and the two sackings of Rome, by the Visigoths in 410 and the Goths in 537, caused much of the tomb contents and decorative structure to be destroyed.

The popes then converted the fortress into a castle. Pope Nicholas the 3rd then had the Passetto di Borgo built. This was a fortified passage to the castle from the Vatican. The castle was also used as a prison and executions were also carried out on its premises.

The reason that the castle has its name is that legend says that an anCastel Sant'Angelogel, Saint Michael, appeared to Pope Gregory on top and sheathed his sword as a sign that the plague had ended in Rome. A stone statue was then built on top of the castle but was later replaced by a bronze one.

The museum also houses many works of art and is also home to the Museo Nazionale Militare. The location of the castle is central and it’s easy to reach: if you’re staying for example at our favourite hotels Yes Hotel or Nice Hotel near the Termini station, you can just take the A line of the metro from the station and get of at Lepanto. Also the following buses, that go to Lungotevere Castello, take to to walking distance of the castle: 23 (from Piramide station metro B), 64 (from Termini), 87, 280. The tickets for the museum can also be reserved on line.

Another impressive structure located close to the castle is the Ponte Sant’ Angelo. It used to be the bridge used by pilgrims to get to Saint Peters. The most spectacular thing about this bridge are the sculptures of the ten angels that adorn it. They were designed by Bernini and each is a representation of the Passion of Christ.

The bridge also had another more macabre use. The bridge was also used for a long time to display the bodies of executed prisoners.