Remember Massimo from Thursday night’s walking tour? Our great tour guide led us through medieval Rome and ended this extraordinary time travel experience with Beatrice Cenci’s tragic story at Castel San Angelo.
After a visit to the Vatican we made our way toward this monumental landmark in daylight. Persistent street vendors and buskers line the sidewalks and pull well practiced disappearing acts when a police cruiser shows up for regular inspections.
History buffs might be more familiar with Castel San Angelo under its original designation, the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138 AD) erected a monumental tomb for himself, following the example of Augustus. The location of this edifice was on the right side of the Tiber near the edge of Vatican fields. Construction began in 130 AD, to this day the building has a massive cylindrical core spanning 64 meters in diameter. The entire lower part was once veneered in marble.
The building was incomplete when the emperor died, and he was not buried at the mausoleum until 139 AD, when his successor Antonius Pius finished the great tomb. Hadrian had also commissioned a bridge to connect the structure with the left side of the Tiber. This bridge was originally named after Hadrian’s family, Pons Aelius, known today as Ponte Sant’ Angelo.
At the beginning of the 5th century the Mausoleum was included in the defense system of the Aurelian Walls. It is estimated that by the 10th century the building began its transformation into the fortress it remains today. Castel Sant’ Angelo’s purpose remains as a protective structure to defend the Vatican and protect the current pontif. It continues to be linked to the Vatican by a raised passageway, a viaduct.