Saturday, October 12, 2013

Rome Holidays - 7 Castle St Angelo

After walking for the whole morning, we again getting closer and closer to Vatican.  Along the Tiber River that flows across Rome, stands a Vatican strong-hold, also a safe shelter for the Pope - Castle St Angelo.
Castle St Angelo Full View and the Bridge of Angels

Castle St Angelo was made famous in recent years thanks to Dan Brown's popular novel and later a motion picture Angels & Demons.  Here is where the four cardinals were held captive before they were cruelly murdered one by one.

Castle St Angelo is also unique in the sense that no Asian monarchs will ever do something like this.  The castle first started as Emperor Hadrian's Tomb!  Don't think any Asian monarchs, or any Asian, will so happily adopt a tomb as a residence.  A cultural divide between the east and west is salient in this aspect.

Bridge of Angels across the Tiber River is where you pass by before you reach the castle.   It is a busy place.  Street vendors, street artists and tourists are crowding out the small bridge.  One of the most impressive performance is by two Indians.  One is sitting on a pole which is being held by the other with only one hand.  I suspect the key holds in the hand holding the pole.  If you look carefully, it doesn't look like a human hand, more like a fake hand.  And if you look at the posture of the guy sitting on the floor, doesn't it look a bit odd?
Street Artists on Bridge of Angels
An Angel on the Bridge of Angels

At the end of the bridge, you will be greeted by a high wall.  It is meant to be a fortress with strong and high walls to protect the Pope in times of trouble.

On top of the castle, there is a giant bronze statue of archangel Michael.

Statue of Archangel Michael

Legend has it that in 590, Archangel Michael appeared atop the castle, probably at the location where his statue is now, signifying the end of the plague.  Hence, the castle is named as Castle St Angelo, basically means Angel's Castle.

Surprisingly, there is actually a small cafe at the top of the castle, where you can sit down for a cup of coffee, while enjoying the super view of St Peter and Vatican.

View of Vatican from Castle St Angelo

Something that I find contradictory of Roman Catholism is that it always asks people to dress properly, and restraint from lust, but then if you visit one of the chambers in the castle, you will find chambers with the whole roof painted with nothing but naked men and women, all of them.  What does it really say about the church?  No photography allowed indoor in the castle, so I can't share with you the paintings.

I missed out one important part of the castle, which is the fortified escape walkway connecting Vatican and Castle St Angelo.  It is located at the back of the castle, and I am not sure whether it is open to the public.  During the sack of Rome in 1527, by the Holy Roman Empire Emperor Charles V, that fortified escape path saved Pope Clement VII, although just temporarily.  With 147 of his 200 strong Swiss guards died in the battle, and under siege in the small little Castle St Angelo, nobody would expect Clement to be able to hold for long.  This war in 1527 also marks the end of the Renaissance period, a high point in Europe's history.

You can find all my Rome Holidays posts here.

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