Castel Sant’Angelo: From Hadrian’s Mausoleum to a Papal Haven & Beyond

Jun 17, 2019 390

Often called the guardian of the Eternal City, the Castel Sant’Angelo has dominated vistas on the west side of the Tiber River as it bends toward the Vatican for almost two millennia. An imperial burial chamber, an asylum for hundreds, a courtly fortress for Popes, a prison for torment, and lastly a stately, national museum, Castel Sant’Angelo has a storied past from which legends are truly made.

Constructed between approximately 123 and 139 CE in an enormous circular plan by Emperor Hadrian (ruled 117-38 CE), this massive structure rises majestically to 165 feet high (offering brilliant panoramic views of the city.) At its creation, the location was considered outside the “city walls” as laws prohibited burial of the dead within the city boundaries. Hadrian died before its completion, but his successor, Antoninus Pius (ruled 138-61 CE), had his ashes, along with his wife’s, placed in the structure when completed. 

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