Castel Sant’Angelo – History & Facts

Castel Sant’Angelo – History & Facts
Castel Sant’Angelo Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo – Photo by Archer10 (Dennis)

Castel Sant’Angelo is the round building near the Vatican with the angel on top that looks like it is about to take a flying leap into the Tiber River.  But more about that later.

Before my first trip to Rome a number of people told me to skip it, it was not worth the effort. But they were wrong. Castel Sant’Angelo is fascinating, a little odd, but very interesting.

Walking up the long wide ramp that winds its way up to the top of the Castel Sant’Angelo to the statue of the Angel Sheathing his sword gives you time to think about what it would have been like to have been imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo. Once you get to the top and see the beautiful view of the rooftops of Rome you will forget that you are in what was once a prison, mausoleum and hiding place for popes fleeing the Vatican.

Castel Sant’Angelo History & Facts

Castel Sant’Angelo was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian (AD 130-139). That was just the start. It has been both a prison and a papal residence, sometimes both at the same time. There is a secret (though it is no secret now) passageway that connects Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican. Popes used to go to Castel Sant’Angel through the passageway if they felt they were in danger at the Vatican.

The Castel has a long and interesting history, let’s suffice to say it has been looted and ransacked by just about every invader that entered Rome.

Angel - Castel Sant’Angelo

Angel – Castel Sant’Angelo – Photo by Archer10 (Dennis)

Legend holds that the Archangel Michael appeared on top of Castel Sant’Angelo sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590. In 1536 Raffaello da Montelup created a marble statue of Saint Michael holding his sword after the plague. This statue now resides in an open courtyard inside the Castle. Montelupo’s statue was replaced by a similar statue in 1753 and that is what you see atop the Castle as you approach. It is the statue that looks like it is about to take a flying leap off the building.

The National Museum of Castel Sant’ Angelo located inside the building is worth a visit. Though it is not of the same interest as most museums in Rome it is still worth a visit but it is the building itself that is the main attraction.

Castel Sant’Angelo sits on the right bank of the Tiber and since it sits high when you walk to the top you get a great view of the river as well as the surrounding rooftops and the domes of the nearby churches.

Video Tour of Castel St Angelo with Historic Information


The Castel Sant’Angelo has appeared in books (Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons), movies (Roman Holiday), opera (Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca) and a video game (Assassin’s Creed 2).

Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo
Lungotevere Castello, 50
00186 – Roma
Tel. 06.681.911.1

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