Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo

It has been the seat of the Museo Nazionale since 1925. The purpose of this museum was to receive collections of art and history and relics of the Italian Army in Castel Sant’Angelo a monumental setting which had been restored for the occasion. The Castel Sant’Angelo is a monument-symbol of the Roman practice of “reuse” of the buildings of ancient Rome, it stands out with its massive structure on the right bank of the Tiber not far from St. Peter’s Basilica, at the end of the perspective row of Bernini’s Ponte S. Angelo.

It was built between 123 and 139 AD as ordered by Emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus as a monumental tomb for himself and his successors. The Mole Adriana was originally made up of three overlapping bodies of decreasing diameter with a mound ceiling crowned by the emperor’s bronze quadriga. It was subsequently incorporated within the Aurelian walls (271 AD) because of its strategic position, in order to control the northern access into the city, its function then changed from tomb to a military post and as a fortified stronghold it underwent continuous work during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance under several Roman families who competed for its ownership until the final acquisition in 1377 by the papacy on its return from exile in Avignon.

In the second half of the fifteenth century the final transformation of the building into a war machine complex was completed in accordance with the wishes of Nicholas V and Alexander VI and under the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Elder. The building was adapted to the use of new firearms and therefore equipped with a new pentagonal boundary fortified with ramparts; at the same time it began to be used as an alternative and fortified papal residence connected to the Vatican palace by the thirteenth-century Passetto di Borgo that saw its completion in the mid sixteenth century with the construction of Paul III’s apartment, which is located above the fifteenth-century rooms built for Nicholas V and splendidly frescoed by the circle of Perin del Vaga.

The complex and stratified history of the monument, that can be traced back to the three main units formed by the Roman remains of the imperial mausoleum (the helicoidal flight of stairs with its four gigantic ventiducts, the halls of the urns intended for the ashes of the imperial family with three overlaping rooms made in the last cylinder of the Mole), from the fortified castle (with the patrol round and the four bastions dedicated to the Evangelists) and from the papal apartments (in which to be counted are those small treasures represented by the chapel of Leo X and from the heater of Clement VII) simultaneously constitutes the substance and setting of the exhibition route that boasts mixed collections of sculptures, paintings, marble finds, weapons, furniture and objects of different origins, partly discovered during construction for the helicoidal ramp of the mausoleum, partly given up by the Roman National Museum of Baths of Diocletian and by the former Industrial ArtMuseum, in part purchased on the antiques market and as a result of exhibitions set up to celebrate the Universal Exposition in 1911.

The small yet precious picture gallery formed through the bequests of the Menotti and Contini Bonaccossi collections and was placed in the rooms of the historical apartments according to a museological criterion of “furnishings in style”: the heterogeneity of the works is compensated by the great value of the authors among which Crivelli, Lotto, Dossi and Signorelli stand out. The most important sculpture in the collection is the stone angel by Raffaello da Montelupo which is now located in the Cortile d’Onore but it was located on top of the castle until 1752.During the time of Gregory the Great it was believed that an apparition of the statue had brought a plague to its end.

In the collection of arms, on the other hand, which is arranged in the rooms of Pius IV at the top of the monument and involved in a new arrangement which has not been completed yet, priority has been given to the nature of the items of fine antiquities rather than to that of simple relics, however pieces which are definitely linked to the Castle’s events have been selected; there are arms, equipment and uniforms dating from between the XV and XIX centuries.

Address Lungotevere Castello, 50
Visiting Hours Every day from 9.00 am to 7.30 pm (the ticket office closes one hour before the schedule closing time)
Closed Monday, Dec. 25, Jan. 1
Telephone 06 6819111; Fax 06 681911155; Bookings 06 39967600
Price € 5,00; concessions € 3,50