Interesting facts about Castel Sant’Angelo

castel sant angelo

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo is a monument located in Rome, Italy.

The Castle is an extremely complex structure with strong contrasts in its architecture, sculpture and

It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family.

Construction of the mausoleum started in 123 AD and finished in 139 AD, during the reign of Hadrian’s successor, Antoninus Pius.

At the time which the Castel Sant’Angelo was constructed it was the tallest building in Rome.

Originally the mausoleum was a decorated cylinder, with a garden top and golden quadriga.

The mausoleum was connected to the city at the other side of the river by a newly constructed bridge, the Pons Aelius. The bridge is now known as the Ponte Sant’Angelo. Its many statues were added later during the Baroque period.


Much of the tomb contents and decorations have been lost since the building’s conversion to a military fortress in 401 and its subsequent inclusion in the Aurelian Walls by Flavius Augustus Honorius.

Legend holds that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590, thus lending the castle its present name.

Between the 10th and 14th centuries Castel Sant’Angelo was the only fortress in Rome and practically
dominated the city, with the most powerful princes fighting for control of it.

Castel Sant’Angelo is comprised of a square 89 meters (292 feet) wide base on acylindrical colonnaded drum with a diameter of 64 meters (210 feet).


The popes converted the structure into a castle, beginning in the 14th century. Throughout the Middle Ages, the castel was a refuge for the popes in times of danger.

Pope Nicholas III connected the castle to St Peter’s Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo.

A brick superstructure was added to the cylindrical building in several phases to house the magnificent papal apartments.

Castel Sant’Angelo features many beutiful rooms decorated with frescoes and also houses a prison and a torture chamber.

castel sant'angelo interior

Executions were performed in the small inner courtyard.

The panoramic terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo is not as high as other panoramic points of Rome yet it is located at the centre of Papal Rome and it allows close range views of its many domes.

At the top of the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Archangel Michael stands mighty and proud, sheathing his sword. The bronze statue was created by the Flemish sculptor Pieter Van Verschaffelt in 1798.

archangel michael statue

From the end of 11th century the Angel at the top of of castle was substituted 6 times.
The 1st statue was made of wood and was destroyed by time.
The 2nd statue was marble one and was destroyed during the attack on the castle in 1379.
The 3rd statue one was also from marble but with the bronze wings and in 1497 was blown in the air by
the lightning.
The 4th statue was made of gilded bronze, which ended by being used as a material for cannon in 1527.
The 5th statue was created by the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt, in 1753. It was from
marble with bronze wings, it was on the tower top till 1752 as was destroyed by the weather, now it is
in an open court in the interior of the Castle.

The military use of Castel Sant’Angelo ended in 1901, when the castle’s restoration was begun.

Castel Sant’Angelo is now a national museum under Italy, and thanks to its fortified walls and status as the Pope’s escape room, this ancient structure is incredibly well-preserved!

It contains many exhibits ranging from antique military weapons to renaissance paintings and pottery.