Updated: Apr 5, 2019
Castle Sant'Angelo stands in the middle of Rome at the bank of the river Tiber, which surrounds it and overflows by fascinating arts, fountains and stunning historical sites in every corner. Castel Sant’Angelo remains a subject of the city's fascination even today because the castle took on such a myriad of roles throughout its lifetime as a mausoleum, a fortress, a hideaway, and a museum. Castel Sant’Angelo, also called Hadrianeum or Sepulcrum Antoninorum, that was originally the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Hadrian and became the burial place of the Antonine emperors until Caracalla. It was built in AD 135–139 and converted into a fortress in the 5th century.
At the top of the Castel Sant'Angelo, the archangel Michael stands mighty and proud, sheathing his sword. The Archangel statue of Castle Sant'Angelo has an old legendary story connected to the worst days of the Dark Ages. At the end of the sixth century AD, after Rome’s fall but still centuries before its Renaissance rebirth, a terrible plague fell upon the city. With thousands falling ill and the bodies of the dead choking the streets, Pope Gregory the Great led a procession through the city, praying to God to spare those who still lived.
Looking up to the old mausoleum of emperor Hadrian, long fallen into disuse and ruin, Pope Gregory had a vision of a radiant figure high atop the massive tomb. It was an angel, glowing brightly and brandishing a sword; as the pope watched, the angel lowered his weapon and returned it to its sheath. The message was clear: the sword at rest meant that the plague was over! The Lord had listened to their prayers, and in memory of this event, and perhaps as an offering on the part of Gregory the Great himself, the magnificent angel of Castello was erected on the monument.
The bridge was built in between the banks of the Tiber river in 134 AD by Emperor Hadrian in order to connect the centre of Rome with his newly built mausoleum, it was known as "Bridge of Hadrian". During the medieval period, it was sometimes called the “Bridge of St. Peter” since it was how most pilgrims crossed the Tiber River to get to St. Peter’s Basilica. But the bridge took on a new meaning in the 17th century when Pope Clement IX commissioned new statues, now it is called : Bridge of Angels".
Ten strikingly beautiful angel sculptures ,designed by famous sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, line the spectacular travertine marble made “Ponte Sant’Angelo” or “Bridge of Angels” in Rome. Each sculptured angel symbolizes a part from the story of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death by crucifixion. Statues of the saints Peter and Paul watch over the entrance way of the bridge.
I have included some of pictures I have taken at the bridge of angels and I have gathered the information from various resources.
Angel with the Whips by Lazzaro Morelli, contemplates with obvious sadness the whips that wounded the Lord. The inscription reads: “I am ready for the scourge”.
Angel with the Superscription which the inscription reads: “God has reigned from the tree” (referencing the wood of cross).
Angel with the Crown of Thorns, sculpted by Paolo Naldini and perfected by Bernini himself, presents the crown of thorns, a symbol of the vane blindness of the men who were unable to recognize Christ’s authority. The inscription reads: “The thorn is fastened upon me”.
Angel with the Sponge, by Antonio Giorgetti, observes with an expression of deep sorrow the sponge attached to the end of his stick, so real you expect sour wine to drip from it. The inscription reads: “They gave me vinegar to drink”.
Angel with the Lance, by Domenico Guidi, stares in misery at the point of the lance he carries, lifting it as if to mimic the moment when the spear wounded the heart of Jesus. The inscription reads: “You have ravished my heart”,
Angel with the Nails, by Girolamo Lucenti, holds the nails that pierced the hands and feet of Jesus. The inscription reads: “They will look upon me whom they have pierced”.
Angel with Veronica’s Veil, by Cosimo Fancelli, observes with pity the face of Christ impressed in blood on the Veil of Veronica. The inscription reads: “Look upon the face of your Christ”.
Angel with the Cross, by Ercole Ferrata, holds the cross, as the strongest symbol of the Passion as well as an icon of faith in Him. The inscription reads: “Dominion rests on his shoulders”.
Angel with the Column means holds up the flogging column to which Jesus was tied. The inscription reads: “My throne is upon a column”
Angel with His Garment and Dice, by Paolo Naldini, carries the garment and dice. The inscription reads: “For my clothing they cast lots”.
It very easy to pass by these angels statues without knowing their deeper meaning. when you are crossing the Hadrian bridge. I hope this blog will give you the basic ideas of one of the most important historical sites of Rome.