Imposing monument on the Tiber which represents almost two thousand years of the history of Rome, the Emperor Hadrian unification of Italy. It was Mausoleum, fortress, prison and now papal Museum.

Castle of the Holy Angel (or Mole Adrianorum or "Castellum Crescentii" in X -XII sec.), Also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, is a monument in Rome, linked to the State of the Vatican through the fortified corridor of the "small step". The castle has been radically changed several times during the Middle Ages and Renaissance situated on the right bank of the Tiber, opposite the pons Aelius (Ponte Sant'Angelo current) are close to the Vatican, in the Borgo district.

Castle of the Holy Angel was started to built by Hadrian as his mausoleum funeral, inspired by the now complete the mausoleum of Augustus, completed by Antoninus Pius, was built in front of the Campus Martius which was joined by a specially constructed bridge, the Ponte Elio.

Today visitors access them from the passage on which the funeral procession passed the same Hadrian.

Up to the eleventh century is called Adrianeum or templum et castellum Adriani, to remember its origin (Imperial Tomb of Emperor Hadrian for himself and successors).

In 403 the Emperor Honorius in the West including the building in the Aurelian Walls: since that time the building lost its original function of tomb becoming a fortress, a bulwark in defense advanced beyond the Tiber in Rome. It was then that the mausoleum was shown for the first time with the name of castellum.

Many Roman families if they fight for possession, which seems to ensure a leading position within the legal system of the City confused: it will be important stronghold of the many senators. It 'just a pope, Nicholas III, to have manufactured the Passetto, the bridge connecting the Vatican to the Castle, in a physical continuity and ideal.

In 974 he seizes Crescentius, the family of Alberico, which further strengthens: therefore was renamed Castrum Crescentii. This name will last until the second half of the fifteenth century, then finally giving way to the current name.

In 1367, the keys to the building are delivered to Pope Urban V, to urge the return of the Curia in Rome from exile. From this moment on, Castle of the Holy Angel inextricably linked its fate to that of the popes, which are easily adapted to residence in which to take refuge in times of danger. Thanks to its solid structure and strengthened and its reputation for impregnability of the castle houses the Archives and the Vatican treasures, but will also be adapted to the court and prison.

The long and varied history of the building, with its many changes seems to have unsettled the complicated maze of underground rooms, balconies, stairways and courtyards that make up the current structure of the Castle.

While all the other Roman monuments are reduced to ruins or quarries counting to be recycled into new modern buildings, the Castle, through an uninterrupted series of developments and transformations, the castle, accompanied by nearly two thousand years the fate and history of Rome.

After the unification of Italy was initially used as a barracks, then a museum.

In its courtyard, formerly garden funeral, there is a statue by Raffaello da Montelupo that represents an Angel who draws his sword.

From the courtyard, with the front of Michelangelo in 1514 leads to the Hall of Apollo with the presence of beautiful frescoes.

Since its establishment in 1925, Castle of the Holy Angel has undergone numerous transformations and interventions, able to catalyze the interest of the millions of visitors each year who flock to its spaces to visit its charming rooms, admire the valuable collections of paintings and artifacts, enjoy the many exhibitions and temporary exhibitions that take place inside the castle during the year.


Architectural history

Built in 130 Mausoleum of Hadrian, was built on a square base, (89 meters on each side)15 meters high with a central cylindrical building 21 meters high (64 feet in diameter) and a mound of earth covered with vegetation, all surrounded by statues of the emperors.

The central cylindrical core corresponds to the Roman, private, however, the original marble cladding in the Middle Ages.

All inside of the central cylindrical tower, leads to a grand foyer with a barrel vault.

Stand outside, travertine, was perhaps decorated at the top by a Doric frieze and metopes in triglife, while all around you develop the courtyard, called "balls" to the piles of balls of marble and granite placed, and were part the ammunition of the castle. (Even today, all inside are visible numerous finds of ancient and medieval weapons).

The studies and research carried out appearance taken from the castle during the Middle Ages, in fact exclude the presence of decorative trappings, favoring the defensive function of the monument. It was necessary to guarantee the impregnability of the structure without regard to its aesthetics. At the bottom of Castle of the Holy Angel played this role to perfection over the centuries.

The interior of the castle, remodeled during the Renaissance has undergone the transformation of the inner rooms, with embellishment typical of frescoes, paintings and furniture.


History of the name

Up to the eleventh century is called Adrianeum and also templum Adriani and templum et castellum Adriani, as nell'ardo Benedictine, in memory of its origin by Emperor Hadrian in 135 because it would serve as a tomb for himself and his imperial successors. The memory of these names is in the diction of modern Hadrian.

In 359, Honorius includes it in the walls of Rome, transforming it into a kind of fortress for the defense of the city date from then the name of castellum.

In 974 he seizes Crescentius, the family of Alberico, which further strengthens: therefore was renamed Castrum Crescentii. This name will last until the second half of the fifteenth century, then finally giving way to the current condition.

In the sixth century the name also appears Castellum Sancti Angeli, in memory of the vision of the Archangel Michael deposed sword on Hadrian had by Pope Gregory the Great in a solemn penitential procession to ward off the plague that was raging in Rome, interpreted as an omen of vision imminent end of the plague, which took place on time.

From the eleventh century papal bulls in using the term mixed nostrum Crescenzii and Castrum Castrum Sancti Angeli.

In the chansons de geste is also known as Tower or Palais Croissant, naming the latter that is the translation of Crescentii but which literally translated means "moon palace" curiously referring to the leavened dough in two tips that typically accompanies the "cappuccino", called precisely in France “croissant".

Before the year one thousand reporters call domus Theodorici and also because carceres Theodorici Theodoric king of Italy (493-526)it into a prison, function maintained even under the popes and the Italian government until 1901.


Prisoners of Castle of the Holy Angel

Castle of the Holy Angel in many environments are intended to prison, can still be visited. The cell 's most infamous was the one called San Sammalò or Morocco, on the back of the bastion of San Marco. The condemned man was lowered from the top and you barely had room to settle in the middle folded, unable neither stand nor lying. The cell was once one of the four air vents that gave the central hall of the Mausoleum of Hadrian, where they were imperial urns, and which overlooked the flight of stairs. In the Middle Ages had been transformed into a secret here was made ​​a drawing of the dark "San Morocco", then spelled as "Sammalò". In the lower floor of the semicircular construction of the Cortile del Pozzo, built by Alexander VI, the cells were reserved for characters in this regard. Here, between 1538 and 1539 was held Benvenuto Cellini. His famous escape: the artist managed to escape an evening of celebration at the castle climbing down from the top of the wall with a rope made ​​with the sheets. In the fall broke his leg but still managed to reach the house of Cardinal Cornaro, his friend. Recaptured, was brought back to Castle of the Holy Angel and locked up in the "secret" cells, escape-proof. Are the prisons historic Castle of the Holy Angel. Cellini stood in particular in that of "a preacher of Foiano", that there had been starved to death, remained there a year, then was pardoned by the pope through the intercession of Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este and the king of France, his great admirers. His cell is famous because of a wall Cellmi designed with a rudimentary charcoal, according to what he says in his Life (I, 120), a risen Christ, of which even today visitors it indicates a trace. In fact, these remnants of charcoal would be merely signs "produced by crevasses of whitewashed wall is not for centuries".

On the so-called Giretto of Pius IV, to the right of the Loggia of Paul III, eleven prisons used for political prisoners. Rooms were originally built for the family of Pope Gregory XVI.

In ancient upper loggia of the pontifical apartment of Paul III is the Cagliostra, so called because in 1789 there was held captive the famous adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo, Count Cagliostro said. It was a luxury prison inmates bound to respect.

In the cells of Castle of the Holy Angel were kept prisoners, among others, humanists Platina and Pomponio Leto, Beatrice Cenci, who was sentenced to death despite his young age and the extenuating circumstances, and Giordano Bruno, in addition to the patriots during the Italian Risorgimento.

Unlike Benvenuto Cellini, many illustrious prisoners of Castle of the Holy Angel lost their lives. Many of these were victims of the Borgias. Among them, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Orsini. This was imprisoned in Castle of the Holy Angel on charges of attempting to poison Pope Alexander VI. Given the seriousness of the accusation, the mother and the lover of the cardinal, fearing for the fate of their loved stood before the pope with an offer: a rare and precious in exchange for the cardinal. Note was the weakness of the Borgias for pearls, it seems that Lucrezia he possessed more than three thousand. The pope accepted the proposal, took the pearl and keeping his word, returned the cardinal died.

The processes were performed in the Hall of Justice, capital punishment generally performed outside the castle, in the square beyond the Ponte Sant'Angelo, although there were numerous summary executions inside the castle and in the same prisons. In the courtyard area in front of the Chapel of the Crucifix in the nineteenth century were sentenced or executed death sentences by firing squad. Each execution of a death sentence sounded in the Bell died of Mercy, on the terrace at the foot of the statue of the Angel.

The prisons make up the scene of the third act of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, set in Rome in 1800, the painter Cavaradossi, sentenced to death, ends up in the Castel Sant'Angelo, is shot here in the yard and his lover, Tosca, for despair, commits suicide jumping from the battlements of the castle.


The angels of Castle of the Holy Angel

To commemorate the event which gave its name to the current structure, the statue of an angel crowns the building. Originally it was a wooden statue which ended up consuption, the second angel, marble, was destroyed in a siege in 1379 and replaced in 1453 by a marble angel with bronze wings. This angel was destroyed by lightning nel1497 who blew up a powder keg in the castle, and was replaced with a golden bronze in 1527 but was melted down to make cannons. Finally it was the turn of a statue in marble with bronze wings of Raffaello da Montelupo dating from the sixteenth century and is currently visible in the Courtyard of the Angel, and then, in 1753, came the current bronze angel of Pierre van Verschaffelt submitted to restoration between 1983 and 1986.

Works of art

• Lorenzo Lotto, Penitent St. Jerome, around 1509

• Carlo Crivelli, Blessing Christ and Onofrio, 1493


In popular culture

• On the model of Castle of the Holy Angel was built in the Abbey of Neustift in Tyrol, in the fifteenth century, a unique round church conceived as a fortress to defend against the Turks and dedicated to Archangel Michael, that, because of its character fortified, "Engelsburg".

• Giacomo Puccini setting for Castle of the Holy Angel the last act of Tosca.

• The castle is present as the setting in the book Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.

• Even the world of video games dedicated a large page at the castle: to remember the last mission of Assassin 's Creed II and a good part of Assassin 's Creed: Brotherhood almost entirely set in Rome.

• In the Roman dialect, the building is called " The cagliostra ", from the imprisonment of Cagliostro.


A Detailed History


Started by Emperor Hadrian in 125 as his funeral mausoleum, inspired by the now complete mausoleum of Augustus, was completed by Antoninus Pius in 139. It was built in front of the Campus Martius which was joined by a specially constructed bridge, the Ponte Elio. The mausoleum was composed of a cubic base, coated lunense, with a decorative frieze with heads of cattle (Bucrani) and corner pilasters. In the frieze overlooking the river you could read the names of the emperors buried inside. On this side was the ARC entry titled Hadrian, the dromos (step entrance) was entirely covered with antique yellow marble.

Above the base cube lay a drum made ​​of lava stone and cement work (opus caementicium) all covered with travertine and fluted pilasters. On top of it there was a mound of earth planted with trees surrounded by marble statues (there are fragments). The mound was finally topped by a bronze quadriga led by Emperor Hadrian depicted as the sun set on a high basement, or, according to others, on a circular tholos. Around the mausoleum ran a wall with bronze gate decorated with peacocks, two of them are preserved in the Vatican.

In light wells lit up the spiral staircase covered in marble tile that connected the entrance passage to the cell at the center of the mound. The latter, square and is entirely covered with polychrome marble and was surmounted by two other rooms, maybe they used as sepulchral cells.

The mausoleum housed the remains of the Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina, the emperor Antoninus Pius, his wife Faustina major and three of their children, Lucio Elio Caesar, Commodus, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and three other of his sons, the emperor Septimius Severus, his wife Julia Domna and their sons and emperors Geta and Caracalla.

The mausoleum took its current name in 590. That Rome was afflicted by a severe plague, which was organized to stave off a solemn penitential procession which was attended by the same Pope Gregory I. When the procession reached near the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the pope had a vision of the archangel Michael sheathing his sword. The vision was interpreted as a heavenly sign foreboding the imminent end of the epidemic, what actually happened. Since then, the Romans began to call Castle of the Holy Angel Hadrian and in memory of the miracle in the thirteenth century placed on the highest rampart of the castle an angel in the act of sheathing his sword. Even today in the Capitoline Museums is a circular stone with footprints that traditionally would be those left by the Archangel when he stopped to announce the end of the plague.


From the Middle Ages to the present day

In 403 the Emperor Honorius in the West including the building in the Aurelian Walls: since that time the building lost its original function of tomb becoming a fortress, a bulwark in defense advanced beyond the Tiber in Rome.

It was then that the mausoleum was shown for the first time with the name of castellum. He saved the Vatican area from the sack of the Visigoths under Alaric in 410 and 455 of the Vandals of Genseric. Then the Romans to defend themselves on the assailants threw everything they had at hand, even the statues: one of these, the so-called Barberini Faun, will be found later in the ditches of the fort.

At the beginning of the eleventh century, was used as a state prison by Theodoric.

His tenure was disputed by many noble Roman families: in the first half of the tenth century, the mole became the stronghold of Senator Theophylact and his family, his daughter and grandson Marozia Alberico, who used it as a prison, use the castle keep until 1901.

In 932 Marozia, already mistress of Pope Sergius III and wife of the Marquis Alberic I of Spoleto and then Guido of Tuscany, perhaps to the " spiritual " wanted to celebrate his third marriage with Hugh of Provence in the burial chamber of the emperors in Castle of the Holy Angel. But the gesture brought her luck because during the wedding banquet Alberico II, the son of the first bed, suddenly appeared in the Castle of the Holy Angel forcing Hugh to escape and seizing of power. Marozia darkly end his days in a prison of Castle of the Holy Angel.

In the second half of the tenth century the castle passed into the hands of Crescenzi, and remained there for a century, during which the Crescenzi strengthened him enough to impose their name to the building: Castrum Crescentii. Castel Sant'Angelo with this name will be identified for a long time, even after the transfer of ownership to Pierleonis and later the Orsini.

Nicholas III, Pope of this family, given the reputation of impregnability of the castle and its proximity to the Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican Palace, he decided to transfer you part of the Apostolic See, then in the Lateran Palace, which he judged unsafe. To ensure greater security in the Vatican Palace built the famous passageway, which was the protected passage to the pope from St. Peter's Basilica at the fortress.

In 1367, the keys to the building were delivered to Pope Urban V, to solicit the return from exile in Avignon. From this moment Castle of the Holy Angel inextricably linked its fate to that of the Popes: for its solid structure and fortified the popes will use it as a refuge in times of danger, to accommodate the Archives and the Vatican Treasury, as well as the court and prison.

In 1379 the castle was reduced almost to the ground by the people enraged against the French garrison left to garrison the castle by Urban V. To begin the rebuilding was in 1395 Pope Boniface IX, who commissioned the architect Niccolo Lamberti military to carry out a series of measures to upgrade the defensive structure of the castle. The entrance to the castle became possible only through a single access ramp and a drawbridge. On top of the building was rebuilt the chapel dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.


A view of the Castle of the Holy Angel in a painting at the end of the seventeenth century

In the next four centuries follow each other interventions and transformations: Nicholas V (1447-1455) endowed the castle of a papal residence - the first inside the building - and released three bastions at the corners of the quadrangle outside. In addition to the provident remake of the Ponte Sant'Angelo, which collapsed on the occasion of the jubilee events. Alexander VI commissioned the architect Antonio da Sangallo the Elder of further fortification works, after which the building took on the character of a real military stronghold according to the latest techniques of "modern fortification": four bastions were built pentagonal, dedicated to the holy Evangelists, that incorporate the previous structures built under Nicholas V. To provide greater control on the access routes to the castle pope Alexander VI had then raise an additional cylindrical tower at the entrance of the bridge and around the walls dug a moat filled with the waters of the Tiber. The work ordered by Alexander VI were not directed only to the strengthening of the defensive structure of the building, the pope gave to the castle for a new apartment, which he frescoed by Pinturicchio and added, gardens and fountains. During his pontificate Alexander transformed the castle, where he loved to reside in a luxurious palace where organized banquets, parties and theatrical performances. The chronicles describe the home as luxurious and opulent but today nothing remains of it, having been demolished by Pope Urban VIII in 1628 to make way for new fortifications.

The fortification works of Alexander VI allowed, 32 years later, Pope Clement VII to withstand seven months siege of the troops of Charles V, the famous Lanzichenecchi, May 6, 1527 that began the sack of Rome.

Clement VII in 1525 built the stove, as it was then called a private bathroom, a small room painted with ornaments uninitiated: dolphins, shells, nymphs, cupids, mythological characters, still be visited today. In the room there was also a tank in which the water was poured from a bronze nude Venus, then lost.

The sack of Rome proved the usefulness of the castle to the popes, who undertook great works of adaptation, setting up a real papal residence. In 1542 Paul III had the castle restored by architects Sinibaldi Raffaello da Montelupo and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, since 1520 chief architect of the building of St Peter. The room decoration was entrusted to Perino del Vaga and Luzio Luzi from Todi, with the collaboration of Livio Agresti from Forlì. The large pentagonal ramparts surrounding it, the last episode in a long history of fortifications, was begun under Pope Paul IV (1555 - 1559) and completed by his successors by Francesco Laparelli. In 1630 Pope Urban VIII destroyed all the fortifications front, including the Borgia tower between the bridge and the castle, and moved to the right side the front door. In addition, he built a large curtain wall panel.

Between 1667 and 1669 Clement IX, ordered the ten marble angels on the Ponte Elio: since then, the bridge is also called Sant'Angelo.

In the nineteenth century the castle was used exclusively as a political prison, called by the name of Fort St. Angelo.

After the unification of Italy was initially used as a barracks, then for the museum. To this end, it was the object of restoration work by the Italian Army Corps of Engineers, under the leadership of Major Mariano Borgatti, then became the first director of the National Museum of Castle of the Holy Angel opened February 13, 1906. Through the merits recognized his work as superintendent of the restoration Borgatti was promoted to general. In fact the results of the restoration works were judged by many rather questionable because it led to a cancellation of the impression of the two thousand year old castle. The restoration of 1933-34 restored the moats and ramparts and arranged in the garden area between the town square and pentagonal structure.

In 2008 the museum was visited by 734,585 people.




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