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The secret beauty of Castel Sant’Angelo


Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum, lies in Parco Adriano, very close to St. Peter’s Square. Commissioned by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 123AD as a mausoleum for himself and his relatives, it later became a fortress a few hundred years later in 401, under the orders of Emperor Honorius. It underwent intensive looting during the fall of the Roman Empire. In the 14th century it was converted into a castle by the Church. Pope Nicholas III connected it to St.Peter’s square via a covered fortified corridor (Passetto di Borgo). This corridor was twice used to save popes from the invader, in 1494 and 1527. Castel Sant’Angelo also served as a prison which housed Giordano Bruno, the Dominican friar who demonstrated that the sun was the center of the universe, and Benvenuto Cellini, on the charge of stealing gems from the Pope’s tiara. It once stood as the tallest building in Rome and, since the beginning as the 20th century, has been converted into a Museum.

Although no popes have lived there for quite some time, you can stroll down Via della Conciliazione on a Wednesday morning and participate in a papal audience to see the Pope firsthand. Want to make it a double whammy? Take one of our combo tours: Papal audience + Vatican Museums.