Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) has survived for almost 2 millennia and serves as a reminder of Rome’s diverse history.
Renovated and enlarged over time, the building which originated as a family mausoleum, or sepulchre, built for Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD has been used since then as a fortified outpost, warehouse, prison, and papal residence. Today, as the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo (Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo), the building houses a collection of historical artifacts, furniture, and artwork.
Surrounded by crenellated stone walls, protected by circular bastions (named for the Four Evangelists: Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John),
and topped by a statue of Michael the Archangel, the massive silo-esque fortification features
narrow stairways, ramps, corridors,
and passageways that – as a measure of protection from invasion – spiral up past various chambers and courtyards (as shown in the cross section drawing).
As you make your way up to the various levels, some of what you’ll see includes:
Stone reliefs and statues, such as:
a relief of the Coat of Arms of 16th-century-pope Paul III;
and a statue of Michael the Archangel – attributed to Raffaello da Montelupo and sculpted in the 16th-century from marble and copper, this statue once stood on the top of the castle, but was removed to the Courtyard of the Angel;
The Courtyard of the Angel – also known as the Courtyard of Honor, here’s where you’ll see Raffaello da Montelupo’s statue of Michael the Archangel, as well as the shrine of the Chapel of Leo X designed by Michelangelo;
The Courtyard of Alexander VI – formerly a treed garden, this semi-circular open-air space named for Rodrigo de Borja, known as Pope Alexander VI. The courtyard is also referred to as the Courtyard of Oil (Cortile dell’Olio) for the storage chambers underground, and as the Courtyard of the Well (Cortile del Pozzo) for the water well which bears a relief of the pope’s coat of arms;
The Courtyard of Clement X – situated adjacent to the Chapel of the Condemned (formerly part of the Armory of Pope Clement X) near the Bastion of Saint Luke, this ground-level corner courtyard is believed to have been used as a site for private executions;
Several chambers in the former papal apartments (refurbished and decorated with furniture and artwork donated to the museum), among which are: