Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Castel Sant' Angelo

This is the Castel Sant' Angelo, on the west bank of the Tiber in Rome. The scaffolding on top surrounds a statue of the Archangel Michael.
In ancient times it was the gigantic tomb of the Emperor Hadrian (this picture being from a model of Imperial Rome)

It was rebuilt and adapted to become the fortress and dungeon of the Renaissance Popes. The interior is very lavishly decorated: note the papal coat of arms in the ceiling!

From the battlements there is a magnificent view of St. Peter's. The Vatican palace is to the right of the cathedral
Just off to the right of the previous picture is a fortified wall.
It was along here that Pope Clement VII had to flee for his life when in 1527 the Emperor's armies, who had recently defeated the French in northern Italy and were infuriated by the Pope's double-dealing in the war, stormed into the city. He took refuge in the Castel Sant' Angelo, and had to watch as the invading soldiers (who included many German Protestants) ransacked Rome in an orgy of slaughter and destruction.
The defence of the Castel Sant' Angelo was organised and led by the great goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, or so he tells us in his memoirs. Of course, St. Peter's at the time would have looked nothing like it does today: in 1527 it was no more than a building site.
I found this magnificent catapult in a courtyard, complete with heavy balls of marble to be used as missiles. I wonder if some machine like this took part in the 1527 siege!

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