Monday, August 1, 2011

Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome

Everything about Castel Sant'Angelo

Here's an excerpt from my forthcoming super comprehensive guide book about Rome.
It will be called ROMAPEDIA.

The first edition was published in Italian as "Guida di Roma e provincia" in 2011 and the new enlarged edition is due to be released in 2014.
There will also be an edition in English available.
It is a work of synthesis and anthology of the most authoritative sources of facts and reliable information about the art of Rome and its Province.
It is an encyclopedic dictionary with 1,329 entries, including 483 churches, 278 palaces, and 152 museums.

It also includes a profusion of artistically or historically relevant buildings, monuments, archaeological sites as well as 95 towns in the province of Rome, constituting one of the richest sources of information available in a single book about the art and history of the Eternal City.

You can check out for free the first 63 pages of the first edition with this link:

My new ROMAPEDIA blog with the most complete encyclopedia about the art and history of Rome and its surroundings is being published. New entries are being added everyday. Here is the link:

Begun maybe in 130 and completed in 139 as Hadrian's Mausoleum maybe by Demetrius for Hadrian (117/138)
Burial place for members of the imperial family until Caracalla (211/217) with some exceptions
Square base in opus latericium (concrete covered with bricks) with sides 86.3 m (283 feet) long. Cylinder above with a diameter of 64 meters (210 feet) in opus caementicium covered with tufa stone and travertine marble slabs
Aurelian (270/275) had it included in the Aurelian Walls
It took its present name from an event that took place in 590 during a plague: during a procession Gregory I the Great (590/604) had a vision of the Archangel Gabriel on top of the castle who was placing the sword in its sheath. This was immediately interpreted as a sign of the approaching end of the plague that effectively ended shortly thereafter
In the ninth century it was inserted by Pope St. Leo IV (847/855) in the circuit of the Leonine Wall around the Civitas Leonina that surrounded the Vatican and Borgo
He wanted to prevent new invasions by the Muslims Saracens like the one that had just occurred in 846
The first document that describes the castle as Castellum Sancti Angeli dates back indeed to the time of Leo IV
It was disputed by the Roman nobility and it was used in 928 by Marozia to imprison Pope John X (914/928) who was killed the following year
Marozia was a beautiful and unscrupulous woman who ruled for about twenty years over Rome and the papacy in the age of moral decay known as Roman Pornocracy (about 904/964) during which the fate of Rome was decided by beautiful courtesans
It became permanently prison and fortress after the return of the popes from Avignon, especially with Boniface IX Tomacelli (1389/1404) and the architect Niccolò Lamberti (1370/1451)
It kept the most secret archives and the treasure of the Church
Nicholas V (1447/55) built three bastions, later enlarged by Alexander VI Borgia (1492/1503), who added a fourth one (St. Matthew, in front to the left)
Pius IV Medici (1559/65) raised the ramparts and built the pentagonal fortification
The entrance gate of 1556 by Giovanni Sallustio Peruzzi (?/1573) has been moved among the bastions of St. Luke and St. John (to the right)
The PARK was arranged in 1935 by Attilio Spaccarelli (1890/1975)
The DROMOS or corridor with a marble vault leads to the Atrium where there was a statue of Hadrian the head of which is visible in the Museum of the Castle. Now there are models of the mausoleum
From the Atrium the spiral ramp begins: it is 125 meters (410 feet) long with a difference of 12 meters (40 feet) in level from beginning to end
The diameter Ramp follows, built in late fourteenth or late fifteenth century to allow access only by a drawbridge
After having crossed the 1822 bridge by Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839), one passes through the Hall of urns
After a ramp on the left maybe by Raffaello da Montelupo (about 1505/57) there is the main courtyard, also known as Angel's Courtyard for the 1544 statue of the angel by Raffaello da Montelupo that remained on the castle until 1752 replaced by the present bronze one by Pieter Anton van Verschaffelt (1710/93), the sixth one
In 1798 the French painted the angel with blue, white and red, they put a red cap and called it the Genius of France liberator of Rome
AEDICULA OF the chapel designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564) under Leo X Medici (1513/21)
To the right of the courtyard rooms of the old Armory
To the left ROOMS of Clement VIII Aldobrandini (1592/1605) and so-called Apollo's Room with 1547 frescoes by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47) and artists of his workshop who completed the work after the death of the master
From Apollo's room one goes into the Justice room with a fresco of the "Angel of Justice" maybe by Perin del Vaga and into the Chapel of Leo X Medici (1513/1521) with high-relief "Madonna and Child" end of sixteenth century maybe by Raffaello da Montelupo
Also from Apollo's room one goes into the two rooms of Clement VII Medici (1523/34) with paintings including:
ROOM I: "St. Jerome in the Wilderness" about 1509 Lorenzo Lotto (about 1480/1556), plaques "Redeemer and St. Onuphrius" by Carlo Crivelli
ROOM II: "Cupid" by Girolamo di Benvenuto and "Madonna and Child with saints" by Luca Signorelli (1445/1523)
Courtyard of the well from which there is access to the bathroom with stucco and frescoes maybe by Giovanni da Udine and to the Courtyard of Leo X
A door in the courtyard of the well leads down to the historical prisons
From another door there is access to Oil Room with eighty-four jars containing about 22,000 liters (almost 6,000 gallons) and the silos for grain (about 3,500 quintals - 386 tons) some used as prisons. Here the reserves in case of siege were kept
From the courtyard of the well stairs lead up to the loggia of Paul III Farnese (1534/49) overlooking the garden maybe by Antonio Cordini aka Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483/1546) with "Stuccos and grotesques" by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)
Round corridor of Pius IV Medici (1559/65), lined up with small rooms used as homes for the families of the pope and later as prison's cells
Small Loggia of Leo X
loggia of Julius II della Rovere (1503/13) 1504 Giuliano Giamberti aka Giuliano da Sangallo (1445/1516) overlooking the bridge
Continuing the corridor there are four rooms with antique weapons and the archaeological Gallery with:
"Fragments of molded cornices and friezes in high relief with heads of bulls and sacrificial tools"
"Square Corinthian capital for a pilaster"
Returning to the loggia of Julius II one passes through the small vestibule with niches by Antonio Cordini aka Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483/1546) into the apartment of Pope Paul III
Frescos: faux columns resting on a base decorated in turn with panels "Sea creatures' fights" in between hermaphrodites "Caryatid"
Illusionistic niches between the columns with "Cardinal Virtues" and great paintings in monochrome imitating reliefs in bronze with "Stories of Alexander the Great"
Above the six doors "Allegorical figures" hold round panels with "Stories of St. Paul" 1545/47 by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47) and pupils
"Adrian" by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)
"Angel" by Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527/96)
"Perin del Vaga gives us a monumental summary of the contrasting legacy of Raphael and Michelangelo. The apparatus ornamental and illusive, with an extraordinary richness of composition, was the culmination of the entire decorative complex, intended to have a profound effect on the next great Tuscan-Roman decoration for his crucial role as a hinge between the first and second phase of the Manneristic period" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
Square panels in the vault: "Six stories of Alexander the Great" starting from the box above the angel toward left:
"Alexander meets with the supreme pontiff at the gates of Jerusalem"
"Alexander praying in the temple of Jerusalem"
"Alexander set fire to the booty to lighten the wagons"
"Pore attacked by Macedonian soldiers"
"Alexander has ships built to cross the River Hydaspes"
"Alexander enters triumphantly into Babylon" by Marco Pino aka Marco da Siena (about 1525/87)
Stuccos maybe by Guglielmo Della Porta (1515/77)
Coat of arms on the floor of Innocent XIII Conti (1721/24) who restored the hall in 1722
Chamber of Perseus
"Frieze with stories of Perseus and Andromeda" by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga, who also designed the ceiling with "Archangel Gabriel"
On the walls:
"Christ Carrying the Cross" by Paris Bordon (1500/71)
"Woman with the Unicorn" (perhaps a portrait of Giulia Bella, sister of Paul III) by Luca Longhi (1507/80)
Sculpture carved in wood and painted "St. Michael the Archangel" 1736 by Pietro Bracci (1700/73)
Flemish tapestries from the seventeenth century
Chamber of Cupid and Psyche
"Frieze with stories of Cupid and Psyche" by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga
On the walls:
"Christ Carrying the Cross" workshop of Sebastiano Luciani aka Sebastiano del Piombo (1485/1547) and "Portrait of Alexander VI Borgia (1492/1503)"
Pompeian Corridor
Connecting the Pauline Hall to the Library
Remarkable example of "Grotesque" by Perin del Vaga and his school
"The prevalence of gestures and the use on a large scale reduces the proud and strong Grottescanti technique to border on the repetitive nature of craft practice. These are areas, in sixteenth-century decoration, where the teamwork, the sharing and fragmentation of tasks and means of mechanical reproduction are the order of the day. The fact remains that the technique of a sixteenth-century grotesque rarely lacks in verve and fluency, or fails the task of stimulating the eye with the immediate effect of its optical effects. Albeit often these qualities, rather than in the hand and brain of the artist, are already incorporated in the technical tricks that he uses" (Antonio Pinelli)
Fresco on the vault "Stories of the Emperor Hadrian" and stucco frieze "Sacrificial scenes" 1544 by Luzio Luzi (about 1509/77) pupil of Perin del Vaga
Marble fireplace by Raffaello da Montelupo (about 1505/57)
Room of the Hadrianeum
Frieze with "Reconstruction of Roman monuments" 1544/45 Luzio Luzi maybe executed by Prospero Fontana
On the walls:
"Ecce Homo" Giovanni Baglione (1566/1643)
"Education of Bacchus" school of Peter Paul Rubens (1577/1640)
"Bacchanal" Giovanni Luteri aka Dosso Dossi (about 1486/1542)
"Feast of the Gods" maybe by Nicolas Poussin (1594/1665)
Room of festoons
Frieze with "Garlands" 1544/45 by Luzio Luzi maybe executed by Prospero Fontana
Large canvas "The Cardinal Gozzadini receives James III Stuart in Imola" 1717 by Antonio Gionima
Climbing a ladder it is possible to climb to the Cagliostro room with 1544 frescos by Luzio Luzi. It was here that Giuseppe Balsamo aka Cagliostro was kept prisoner
At the sides two cabinets of the Dolphin (or Chameleon) and of the Salamander
From the library there is access to the Treasury with wardrobes and chests, perhaps true burial chamber of Hadrian
From the vestibule it is possible to climb to the RoUND ROOM with eighteenth-century armor of the angel
Room of the Columns and TWO rooms of the Flags
Decorated in 1926 by Duilio Cambellotti (1876/1960) to house memorabilia of the Italian army and the flags of the dissolved regiments
Sculptures in the two rooms:
"Holy Franciscan" by Jacopo della Quercia (about 1374/1438)
"Ciborium" in marble from the church of St. Lawrence in Lucina by Carlo Rainaldi (1611/91)
"Bust of Salvator Mundi" maybe by Isaia da Pisa
The round room leads up to the terrace where it is possible to enjoy one breathtaking view of Rome


  1. Il Castel Sant'Angelo ed il Pantheon, uniche grandi vestigia dell'antica Urbe ad essere arrivate intatte ai nostri giorni solo perché "riconvertite" e non "demolite" come le altre, sono il simbolo di quanto male abbia fatto il papato alla città nel corso di un millennio e mezzo.
    Un cordiale saluto e complimenti!

  2. Sto appunto facendo un post su Castel Sant'Angelo, davvero un posto particolare...sono contenta che ti sia piaciuto il mio racconto fotografico della centrale Montemartini, è anche per uno dei museo più affascinanti di Roma! Che bel lavoro che fai, come ti invidio...sono laureata in archeologia, ho fatto la guida per alcune associazioni culturali ma solo per hobby, sto dieci ore chiusa in ufficio e quando ho tempo libero adoro andare in giro per Roma, tu lo fai come lavoro (anche se non deve essere facile), lo trovo bellissimo