Castel Sant’Angelo is for sure one of the most iconic monuments in Rome and condensates almost 2000 years of Roman history. It was used for many different purposes throughout times and it’s clearly visible that its sumptuous and unique structure changed a lot during the centuries.
It was initially built to be the Mausoleum of Hadrian, that is a gigantic tomb for the emperor, his family and the following Roman emperors. Many of them would be buried here, namely Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Septimius Severus and Caracalla.
Publius Helius Hadrianus was a very religious man and a worshiper of the Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun) so he conceived his tomb according to specific astronomic patterns. In this way special sunlight phenomena would take place inside the structure during the day when the sun (the star who Hadrian identified himself with) reaches its highest point in the sky: the Summer solstice.
From 403 AD onwards, the building was incorporated in the walls of Rome and became a fortress to protect the city, as it was repeatedly under siege. In the beginning of the 6th century, it was turned into a prison. During the Middle Ages, several noble families of Rome tried to include the castle in their properties, but in the first half of the 14th century it became a property of the Vatican and was used as a prison, as well as a luxury papal palace.
This incredible monument is nowadays one of the best examples of the archaeological stratification in the city of Rome, as from its inside we can analyse all the historical periods it went through, starting by the ancient Roman mausoleum, the wonderful frescoes that date back to the Renaissance, the luxury papal apartment, reaching the top of the structure with some of the most spectacular panoramic views over the Eternal City.