In the company of angels

The Castel Sant’Angelo on the right bank of the Tiber River.

After Piazza Navona, this would be Mr. Langdon’s final stop— Castel Sant’Angelo aka the Illuminati temple (as depicted in the movie). The pagan angel at the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the piazza pointed him to this direction. It would be yours, too, if you’re taking the Angels and Demons Tour (yes, there is such a tour) and you need not race to get to the stops like he did.

The main entrance to the museum, formerly Hadrian’s mausoleum.

No running and no guided tour for us as we went around city at our own pace savoring as much details, sights and flavors we can along the way (a gelato here and there is always good). Next destination: the towering cylindrical structure of Castel Sant’Angelo aka Hadrian’s Mausoleum, once the tallest building in Rome.

The main building’s outer walls.

The most scenic way to approach this popular tourist spot, which is at the right bank of the Tiber, would be via the Ponte Sant’Angelo, once the Pons Aelius, meaning the Bridge of Hadrian, named after Roman Emperor Hadrian who had it built to connect the city center to the his personal and family mausoleum. Before the bridge took the Ponte Sant’Angelo name in the 7th century under Pope Gregory I, it was also known as the Bridge of St. Peter (Pons Petri), the pilgrims’ way to St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Ponte Sant’Angelo (foreground), a scenic path to the Castel Sant’Angelo, was once known as the Bridge of St. Peter, the pilgrims’ way to St. Peter’s Basilica (seen at the background).
The Ponte Sant’Angelo was formerly called Pons Petri (St. Peter’s Bridge) used by the pilgrims to reach St. Peter’s Basilica.

What makes this present day pedestrian bridge a very picturesque foreground to the Castel are the Baroque statues flanking it—ten angels by Bernini holding the instruments of passion (objects associated with Jesus’ Passion), created in 1669 to replace the statues of Raffaello de Montelupo, who sculpted the Archangel Michael’s statue that once topped the mausoleum (now in an open court in the interior of the Castle. The bronze statue in its place today was by executed by the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt in 1753).

The bridge (looking towards the city center) & Bernini’s Baroque angels holding the instruments of passion. The Angel with Lance & Angel with Sponge on the foreground.

It’s from this Archangel that both the castle and the bridge borrow its name. A legend relates that the Archangel Michael appeared on top of the mausoleum sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590.

Topping the structure is the bronze statue of Archangel Michael, to which the castle and bridge is named after.

From an emperors’ tomb Castel Sant’Angelo became a military fortress in 401, where it suffered destruction and looting; a Papal fortress in the onset of the 14th century when a fortified corridor to St. Peter’s Basilica called the Passetto di Borgo was created; a papal residence and a place for refuge for the Pope following the 1527 siege; a prison and execution site; and today, a museum, the Muzeo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.

Street performers come aplenty along the castle’s cobblestone path 

It was a wonderful afternoon with angels. They were on the bridge leading the way to where a mightier angel stands on top of a castle. From the ex-mausoleum, we took the pilgrim’s path to St. Peter’s Basilica where we ended our walking exploration for the day.

Taking the pilgrims’ path to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Pons Petri aka Pone Sant’Angelo.

For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on May 21, 2014.

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