This took a while to do. There’s a lot to cover!
On the banks of the Tiber, Castel Sant’Angelo was built as Emperor Hadrian’s Mausoluem.
In the fifth century it was converted to a fortress and then incorporated into the city’s walls.
(Bottomw left) One site information: The yard derives its semi-circular shape from that of the cylinder of Hadrian’s Mausoleum. The current structure owes much to Alexander VI who, at the end of the fifteenth century, brought impressive works to this part of the castle, hence its name, the Alexander VI courtyard. . . . At the time of Leo X Medici, the courtyard hosted theatrical performances: this it why it was also called the theatre courtyard. A catapult and numerous stone balls are also preserved here, which were originally thrown at enemies from the walls. The courtyard leads to the historical prisons, the oil mills – food stores – and the stove, that is, Clement VII’s bathroom.
Throughout the Middle Ages the castle served as a refuge in times of trouble, especially for the popes, who could reach it from the Lateran through a protected passage. Clement VII took refuge there from the troops of the Holy Roman emperor Charles V during the sack of Rome in 1527. The papal apartments were substantially reconstructed for their residents, and they contain significant Renaissance decorative paintings; one lavishly decorated bedroom is attributed to Raphael. The popes used part of the castle as a prison, and eventually the building became a military barracks and prison.
On site information: We are in the Paolina Room, which is Paul III’s room, the Counter-reformation pope, who organised the Roman Church’s answer to Martin Luther’s protestant reform. It was the entertainment room in the pope’s apartment, where he welcomed his guests. This is why it had to be so lavish: to visibly communicate the dominance of the Roman Church.
On site information: The room was built in the mid-fifteenth century by Nicholas V: this was the beginning of the slow process of transforming the Castel Sant’Angelo from a fortress into a paper residence. The name of the Apollo Room is link to the subject of the frescoes by Perin del Vaga and his collaborators in 1547, at the time of Paul III: indeed the vault has the pope’s coat of arms in the centre as well as stories of Apollow and grotesques on a white backbround.
In the upper part of the fortress overlooking the panoramic terrace, there is a statue of an angel in the act of putting a sword back in its scabbard, the work of the 18th-century Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt. The bronze statue replaced an earlier marble version. The statue depicts the Arcangel Michael, whom Pope Gregory, according to legend, in order to implore divine mercy, arranged a three-day procession in which all the people took part. When they reached the height of Hadrian’s mausoleum, however, the Romans clearly saw a dazzling silhouette standing on its summit; it was the Archangel Michael in all his splendour. The Pope assessed that phenomenon as the announcement of the end of the scourge. It is 29th August 590. That very evening the plague ceases. Hadrian’s mausoleum was renamed the Castle of the Angel.
The earlier marble angel is in an inner courtyard below.
From the top, as well as the avenging angel, there is a wonderful view of the city.
As you can see in the last photo, St Peter’s Basilica (and the Vatican City) are just down the road.
The basilica is free to enter. As you might imagine, there’s a long queue to get through the security. Although it moves very fast, until you get to the point where it divides to go through the actual checkpoints and then it slows to a, well not even a crawl, it doens’t seem to move at all. Possibly because people put their items on the conveyor belt to go through the scanner, they don’t always go through and sit there until someone comes back to the see what the problem is (or the next person on pushes them through).
Inside, well if you’ve seen all the other fancy churches, this one beats them many times over. It’s ostentatious and overdone, a vulgar display of wealth. Obscene even. And there are little wooden boxes asking for donations. If they need money, they should strip some of the fittings and sell them.
When I escaped from the basilica, after probably missing a bunch of interesting stuff but I don’t care, I wen to the Vatican Musuems which were supposed to be pretty good, as museums go.
It’s like a real life computer roleplaying game. You walk through a series of galleries, collecting gallery points, and once you have enough, you enter the Sistine Chapel.
Starting with the obligatory Egyptian exhibits. You have to wonder if there’s anything left in Egypt.
And then rooms full of Roman statues. Although at least these ones have their heads.
On site information: The double space which is the Hall of the Animals was built under Pius VI (1775-1799) . . .It now holds ancient statues which in the past have been much restored, sometimes to the point of completely distorting the original, in order to present a “stone zoo”. With the passing of time, other statues of rare or exotic animals were made or added to the original collection, particularly in the second half of the 18th century. These statues clearly show the ability of the artists of those days to compete with – and outshine – the masters of the ancient world. First and foremost of these 18th century artists was Francesco Antonio Franzoni. The statues in the room are of small to medium size and relate to the themes of nature and hunting. The protagonists are clearly animals both in the curious interaction among them, and in their relation to the gods and heroes of the ancient world (Mithras, Hercules, Meleager). Sometimes the colour of the stone alludes to the tones of the animal’s coat or the plumage of a bird, or to contrast against another, giving the whole display a colourful aspect.
On site information: Statue of Juno Sospita
Formerly in the courtyard of Palazzo Mattei at Paganica, acquired by the Museums in 1782 and restored by Pierantoni. The head of Juno, shown with diadem, is covered with a goatskin that, knotted across her chest, falls over her body. The 18th century additions of the lance and upturned shoes (calcei repandi) were suggested by other images of the goddess as represented on coins. The cult of Juno Sospita was celebrated in Lanuvio, but there was also a temple dedicated to this goddess the Forum Olitorium in Rome. The statue was probably the cultic simulacrum of this temple, and was sculpted in the first half of the 2nd century AD.
After looking at enough statues, you get upgraded to tapestry level. And onto one of the best galleries.
As well as having an incredible long ceiling, these walls are giant maps. (There is a Wikipedia page, which links to a Wikimedia category with all the maps.)
After another tapestry galley and some other rooms that so interested me, I took photos out the window, we get to the “Stanze di Rafaello”, the Rooms of Raphael.
The four Raphael Roomsform a suite of reception rooms in the Apostolic Palace, now part of the Vatican Museums, in Vatican City. They are famous for their frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop. . . . The Stanze, as they are commonly called, were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael, then a relatively young artist from Urbino, and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to redecorate the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius’ intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI, as the Stanze are directly above Alexander’s Borgia Apartment.
Then, to make sure our gallery points are sufficiently high, there’s a series of rooms of contemporary art, which do have interesting ceilings.
Then finally, now your gallery points are high enough, you enter the Sistine Chapel. However, they don’t want people taking photos so I won’t share them. However, image a room about the size of a large, narrow lounge room, full of people chattering and telling each other not to take photos. That’s about it.
Then there’s another series of rooms alternating museums exhibits (possibly with a religious theme, I wasn’t really caring) and gift shops.
Until finally you can escape!