Castel Sant’Angelo | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Castel Sant’Angelo

Rome, Lazio, Italy

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock

About Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome was originally constructed as the magnificent Mausoleum of Hadrian, the fourteenth emperor of Rome from 117AD to 138AD.

History of Castel Sant’Angelo

It is unclearly as to exactly when Castel Sant’Angelo was built, but most sources date it to between 134 and 139 AD. Hadrian’s ashes were deposited here following his death in 138AD at his villa in Baiae. The remains of his successors for the next century were also placed here.

A fortress-like structure, successive Roman emperors and other leaders used Castel Sant’Angelo for a variety of purposes. In 401, Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius incorporated Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome’s Aurelian Walls, destroying and losing many of the contents of Hadrian’s mausoleum in the process. It later turned into a medieval stronghold and a prison.

In the 14th century, popes began using Castel Sant’Angelo as a place of safety, an emergency shelter in times of danger. In fact, there is a corridor linking Castel Sant Angelo with Vatican Palace. Various changes were made to Castel Sant Angelo in order to meet the requirements of the popes and to further fortify this already well-defended building. The passage features in Dan Brown’s novels.

The castle was decommissioned in 1901 and is now a museum.

Castel Sant’Angelo today

Today, Castel Sant Angelo houses a museum, Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo, which tells the story of its history, from the Roman remains of the Mausoleum of Hadrian to remnants of the fortified castle, the original prison cells and the papal apartments.

There is an excellent condition of paintings, sculpture and firearms, as well as odds and ends of military curios and memorabilia. Be sure to check out the frescoes in Sala Paolina and stop on the terrace for a drink at the café and unparalled views out across the city of Rome.

If you want to see the secret passage (Passetto di Borgo) then you’ll need to hop on a ‘Secret Castle’ tour. They run twice a day in English. The complex is open daily.

Getting to Castel Sant’Angelo

The complex is on the west bank of the Tiber, a 10 minute walk from Vatican City and a 20 minute walk from Piazza Navona. The nearest metro station is Ottaviano, a 15 minute walk away. Buses 23, 34, 40, 62, 280 and 982 stop at the base of the castle.

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