The MausoleumIn the vicinity of the Vatican, on the banks of the Tiber River, stands a huge and majestic fortress - Castel Sant'Angelo, meaning "Castle of the Holy Angel." It was originally built as a mausoleum by the royal emperor Hadrian and his family in 123 AD. The mausoleum of Sant'Angelo was built over the walls of Rome and had quite a few underground passages leading directly to the Vatican. Hadrian later ordered the construction of a bridge leading from the city to the building.
Later, the burial structure was given the name Sant'Angelo along with the adjacent bridge. There are chilling stories regarding the terrible crowds on the bridge, when people fell off and into the water below, and were killed.
After his death, as Emperor Hadrian had requested, his ashes, his wife's, and his adopted son's are buried in the treasury, the main room in the building. He was followed by other emperors, the last of whom was Caracalla, who was buried there in 217 AD.
In 1277 the fortress became church property and a papal fortress. By connecting the fortress to the Vatican (to the Church of St. Peter) in a fortified passage, it was used a closed escape and thus served as a stronghold castle that managed to protect Rome and the Vatican during their many wars.
In 1688 Bernini upgraded the Sant'Angelo Bridge - he decorated the parapets with 12 statues of kings symbolizing the Passion of Christ.
Today you can see the National Museum of Museo Nazinale di Castel Sant'Angelo. It features sculptures, paintings and pottery. The weapon collection from the 15th to 19th centuries is particularly interesting, which certainly fits the theme of the fortress. During the summer months, lovely concerts are held here.
The Flight of Pope Clement VIIThe period following the appointment of Pope Clement was characterized by political unrest and instability in Italy, which influenced the messianic undertones (even among the Jewish community).
In 1527, a revolt took place within the Vatican due to the political intrigue caused by Pope Clement. That year, Cardinal Pompeo Colonna's troops occupied Rome and besieged the Vatican. Rome was already under attack and the smell of smoke had spread to many parts in the city. Clement realized that he had to flee for his life and so he began to urge his entourage. Carl V, the Holy Roman Emperor, arrived with his army of mercenaries to the gates of the Vatican and tried to assassinate him. Clement and his men began to escape through the secret passage that led to Castel Sant'Angelo. It is the very place where you are standing now. This secret passage, also known as Passetto (Fausto), was built in 1277. It was the fortress outside the Vatican walls. Pope Clement had managed to reach the bridge, which had been rising in the last few seconds and had managed to shut himself up in the fortress.
The Passetto's UsesThe secret passage from the Vatican into the fortress, the Passetto, was not only an escape route in moments of crisis and war. It was also a path where beautiful girls from Rome were snuck out to spend time with the Church's leaders when they were not working. The fourth floor was set up especially for these purposes. Today one can still see the erotic paintings on the walls and on the floors.
Another attraction in this fortress is the conclave ceiling which creates an acoustic wonder: people can talk to each other without other people eavesdropping. It was an anti-wiretapping mechanism that was critical for the pope's court, where quite a few conspiracies took form.
This passage was neglected for years and no visitors were allowed. A little before the beginning of the 2000's renovations began and it was later opened to the general public. However, it is open only three weeks a year - from mid-August to early September, late in the evening.
An interesting detail about the transition: it is said that those who suffer from male impotence, should go through the passage 77 times in a row - 800 meters in each direction. Legend has it that whoever succeeds in finishing the entire course, over 61 kilometers, will regain his masculinity!