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Rome: Castel Sant’ Angelo

History of Castel Sant’ Angelo:

Exterior of Sastel Sant' Angleo in Rome
Jean-Pol GRANDMONT / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Once called Hadrian’s Tomb, and now called Sant’ Angelo, this is one of the most recognized buildings in Rome.  It was originally constructed between 134 AND 389 A.D. as the tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian and succeeding emperors were placed here as well up until 217A.D.  After the legalization of Christianity much of the interior decorations were removed and for a while it became a fortress.

Today it is visited by many tourists as well as pilgrims who view it as an historical monument….but perhaps many do not know of the reason behind the statue of Saint Michael atop the castle.

The great plague and appearance of an angel:

In approximately 590 A.D., Rome suffered a terrible plague causing many deaths. Pope St. Gregory the Great pleaded for the angels help to fight this epidemic. The Holy Father celebrated Masses and processed through Rome with prayers and incense along with an image of Blessed Mary Ever Virgin.  As he approached the castle, he saw an angel wiping a bloody sword and putting it back in its sheath atop the tomb.  The following day the pestilence subsided.

Statue of St. Michael on top of Castel Sant' Angelo
By Rabax63 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58821193

From that point on it was called “The Castle of the Holy Angel”.  Pope St. Gregory the Great then had a statue of Saint Michael placed on top of the castle, representing his protection over Rome and the Church.

Later, under the reign of Pope Clement VII (1523-1534), statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul were placed along the entrance to the bridge, and then in the 1600’s, statues of angels by Bernini and his students were added, giving it the nickname, “The Bridge of Angels”.

Finding Castel Sant’ Angelo:

As pointed out, it is one of the most recognizable buildings in Rome. It is now officially a museum: The Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.

It is an easy walk from Vatican City….about 1/4 mile.

Address:  Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00193 Roma RM, Italy

Tel:   +39 06 32810   

Click here for the official website of Museo Nazionale di Sant’ Angelo.


  1.  Korn, Frank J. A Catholic’s Guide to Rome: Discovering the Soul of the Eternal City. Paulist, 2000.

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