21 meters high (69ft) and 64 meters in diameter (210ft). The original
construction of the cylinder ends at the travertine line.
Today, the whole thing stands 48 meters (158ft) tall.
125 meters (410ft) of heliciodal ramp, 3
meters wide, 6 high.
of earth were found during restoration work under the floor of the
papal apartments (under the court of the Angel), showing us that there
were probably trees planted on top.
The Fall of the Roman Empire
"The deposition of the last Emperor of the West in 476AD
of any sort of central authority. The result was chaos, with the city
at the mercy of various local factions and of the different armies that
were contending for control of the Italian peninsula. It was in this
context of war and lawlessness that the Christian Church began to
emerge as a social authority and power; though the tragic period of
persecutions had only recently come to an end (a century + before), the
Church, with some difficulty, managed to make a stand against the
unbridled chaos and thus take up the heritage of the empire as a
universal power. The religious fervour and the political skill shown in
these difficult years by various bishops meant that certain basilicas
became the basis upon which the prestige of the future Lords of Rome
However, the empire had collapsed, and no one seemed to have the
strength to stem the prevailing tide of anarchy; terrorised inhabitants
continued to flee the city, property was sacked adn looted, and the
monuments of Classical Antiquity began to fall into ruin. Built using
means and techniques that were now unthinkable, these ancient monuments
at this point lost their original function; they were either demolished
for their materials, or converted to new defensive structures".
Where are the
1. The war of 535 - 553 between
the Ostrogoths and the Emperor of the
East, Justinian, caused the first pilliging of materials. Justinian's
troops stripped down the precious sculptural decoration for missiles.
Procopius is our source for this information.
2. In 1379, the population had been
reduced to starvation by the
commanders of the Castel (popes not in Rome at this time).
The people of Rome seized the fortress and stripped it of
all its remaining adornments: columns, stucco-work, paving and
marble-facing were all torn out.
3. Vasari, a famous author of artists' biographies, states
that some of the marble columns were used for St. Peters Church.
Unfortunately, about 1/2 of what Vasari wrote was untrue, so he can't
be used as a reliable source.
Additions to the Original Structure
Restoration began under Boniface
IX (1389-1404), who strengthened and
equipped the Castel with the newly developed cannon.
VI and Julius II
additions and changes to the
building, but the most notable changes comes from Paul III.
inherits Rome after the Sack of Rome, 1527, where private and
public buildings were destroyed, churches looted and the population
massacred. The Castel was the only thing untouched. He initiates a
massive plan of
urban renewal (1534).
Pius IV (1555 - 1559) commissions
Francesco Laparelli to build the massive
to keep the
core of the Castel out of range of enemy cannons. Some of this was
demolished to make the riverside road built here at the end of the
(1623-1644) had the bronze taken off the porch of the Pantheon NOT to
finish the baldicchino in St. Peters, but to make canons - for here.
You have to be able to defend your city.
But, the bronze had been
decorated with silver and gold (soft metals), which makes lousy canons.
440,000 pounds of bronze, it was.
"Sweet and charming soul,
My body's guest,
Where are you now?
Naked, pale and cold -
not to have the fun we had . . ."
In the early 900's, there was a senator, Theophylatus and his wife,
Theodora, and their daughters Marozia and Theodora II, who governed
Rome for about 30 years, using the Castel as their strong-point.
Marozia, perhaps the lover of Pope
celebrated her 3rd marriage (year 932) in the Castel. During the
marriage ceremony, 1 of her sons, Albericus, felt offended by something
stepfather did, and stirred up a revolt against the newlyweds.
chased his stepfather out of town and imprisoned his mother (Marozia)
Castel - the 1st
time it is used as a prison
(1539). A goldsmith, responsible for 4 murders (pardoned for all, and
not counting military battles), but
actually arrested and charged (falsely . . .) with embezzling some gems
from the pope's tiara during the war. He spent
over a year in the
prison, escaped (!!), recaptured, tortured, and finally released
through the intervention of the king of France, because Cellini had
made something nice for him.
(1593 - 1600).
Bruno had the habit of frustrating just about
everyone he came in contact with. He was a Dominican priest for 4 years
before running away from trouble. He became a Calvinist just to fit in
better in Geneva, but attacked in writing a professor there. He
lectured at Oxford, but they wouldn't give him a teaching position. He
was rejected from several other universities in Europe, as
well. Although he published a few good books, some of his writings were
considered way off, to the point that he was excommunicated by the
Finally, having upset his host in Venice, he was
turned over to the local Inquisition. Rome got interested, so he was
transferred. Among the list of problems with Bruno, are the following:
1. Erroneous opinions about the Trinity, Christ's divinity and
2. Erroneous opinions about Christ (he was a 'skillful magician').
3. Erroneous opinions about Transubstantiation and Mass.
4. Denying the Virginity of Mary.
5. Believing the devil is saved (redeemed)
6. Believing that after death, human souls are 'incarnated' to another
body, including animal bodies.
7. Dealing in magic and divination.
8. Claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity.
Now, this last accusation alone isn't going to
send anyone to the electric chair. But, this guy is not the butcher or
down the street - he is an ordained priest publishing books and trying
to get a teaching position at a university.
His case was overseen by Cardinal Robert Bellermine (later recognized
as a saint) who demanded a full rejecting of those heresies. Bruno
, 16 years later, met Cardinal Bellermine in the
same room of the Castel, and his trial ended with a simple abjuration.
And then he went right back out and continued to do exactly what had
got him in trouble to begin with!
a.k.a. Count Cagliostro, a born con-man from Palermo (1700's), who
started life as a forger, then studied under an alchemist who invented
a way to re-attach severed limbs from the human body . . .
medium and necromancer, Giuseppe was also popular with the Freemasons.
His dumb mistake was founding an "Egyptian Rite" Masonic Lodge in Rome.
Denounced by his calculating wife, he was imprisoned at the Castel in
1789, and tried and condemned to death on April 7, 1791, but he
"rejected" his heresy, so therefore was allowed to live - in the high
security prison of St. Leo.
, “Tosca” where the herione leaps to her death
parapet after her boyfriend is killed.
guy (Mariano Borgatti) is responsible for the piles of fake cannonballs
and other "15th
century" workshops or guard barracks (making it more "touristy" than
realistic). With the new Italian Nation, in
the early 1900's, they decided to dress the place up a bit - this guy
was in charge.
Timeline for the Visible, Structural Changes to the Monument:
Nicholas III (1277-1280) built the Passetto di Borgo -
huge, Roman wall, connected the Vatican to the Castel
Nicholas V (1447-1455) put 3 towers around the main drum.
Alexander VI turned them into large, 7-sided bastions, and Urban VIII
VI puts his courtyard and rooms on the far side
3. Julius II
designs (Michelangelo) the 'Angel' courtyard, adding the rooms and
chapel in the back, entirely closing in that space.
Leo X takes over Julius' area, changes dedication of
VII takes over a few rooms of Julius II, famous for his
bath (that you can't see).
6. Paul III
- moves upstairs, does a hallway. And the Palatine hill, and the
7. A few popes later, Pius IV,
creates chapel at 'execution point', a hallway, and the
massive pentagon shaped wall that encloses the Castel (looks like a
VIII (1592-1605) has 2 rooms back behind the 'Hall of
VIII (1623 - 1644) puts in a staircase from the 'Angel'
courtyard, and the oil room off of the St. John bastion.
VII (1600's) does the walkway by the bar.
XII (1734) added the elevator.
In the Perseus Room, sculpted by Pietro Bracci, 1736.
It's not bad, it's just not . . . great.
Take a tour with me, you'll understand.
this covered in white marble, with a nice patch of greenery (perhaps
trees) on top.
Bronze gates at the entrance with peacocks, a quadriga on the very top.
Begun in 123 for Hadrian and his successors, and finished in 139,
after his death, by Antoninus Pius. Used up to the year 217 as a
mausoleum for the Antonine family.
Then there was the bridge that was used to join it to Rome, to be in
the Campus Martius - where the apotheosis of Romulus took place, and
the reconstruction of the Pantheon for the Gens Julius.
one knows what the original structure looked like, but we can see at
least 3 overlaid
architectural bodies - square base, cylinder body, and the 3rd section
above the cylinder.
What survives is the masonry nucleus and foundations of the square
base. The monumental entrance built in stone blocks and the ramp that
leads to the upper floor - these are parts of the core around which the
constructions of the following centuries were built.
Transferred into a fortress, the layout was modified several times.
took place over 10 centuries, linking them to the town walls of
Gregory the Great, with his vision during a plague in 590; the St.
we see there now is from 1853, by Verschaffelt.
Boniface IX (1389-1404) began the restorations, after it had been
used as grazing-land for sheep. There have been many other
interventions since then.
The Surrounding Area
was customary in Rome, from the middle of the 1st century AD onwards,
the major roads leading from the city of Rome were lined with
mausoleums. Some of these tombs were of such imposing size that they
became veritable land-marks in the area - today, it would be like the
Piramede metro stop (that is someones' tomb). At their time, it would
be like the Meta Romuli
was over at Campo Marzio, and looked like the pyramid tomb of Caius
Cestius, but it was over 30
meters tall. It got the nickname 'meta' from the cone shaped structures
set up at each end of the circus' for the chariot drivers to see where
to turn. The Terebinthus
stood near the pyramid ), so the 2 acted as if to be both ends of an
imaginary race track through Rome.
The point is, the area around Hadrians' mausoleum was full of funery
monuments. In fact, when the bastions were originally built, St.
Matthews was not part of the plan - there was originally a Roman
mausoleum here. Pope Nicholas V (1447) added the 3 other towers. He
also be the first pope to make an apartment for himself in the Castel.
Campo Marzio, right across the river, had been the burial ground for
the Roman elite (close to the site of the "Apotheosis" of Romulus). The
Augustan mausoleum held the ashes of all the departed emporers, until
Trajan, who chose to have his ashes placed at the bottom of his famous
column. Hadrian will build this new mausoleum which will, in turn, hold
the ashes off all the deceased royalty, ending with Caracalla. Both
mausoleums appear to have the circle within a square design, similar
also to the Pantheon decoration - the square being a symbol of earthly
life or mortality, and the circle is a symbol of immortality. It is, in
a sense, a symbol of man becoming a god.
Step By Step
Entrance to the building is through a large gateway, which would have
been higher up - the road has been raised over the years.
After you buy a ticket, you can walk around the entire massive bulk
following the Ambulatory of Boniface
IX (1389-1404). Building this destroyed certain vaults
with cells that were stables and storerooms.
If you go all the way to the end, where the bookshop is, you have come
to the Firing Squad Courtyard. Here is where executions took place, to
the solemn tolling of the Mercy Bell. Here also was the Chapel of the
Crucifixion (or Condemned) - today, the bookshop.
meter long corridor is made of precisely squared blocks of travertine
laid without mortar! This leads into a square atrium with a large apse
at the end, which probably held a colossal statue of Hadrian. The holes
in the stone flooring fixed the statue in place, as the holes in the
side walls of the corridor held a marble finish.
helicoidal ramp comes next, with an area off to the left, half way up,
showing the original mosaic flooring. After this one sees the water
drainage plan, and air shafts above for air and light.
In 1395 under Pope Boniface IV, this ramp had been entirely filled in
with dirt and closed off.
You may see a
sign directing you to the
St. Marocco - the sign doesn't mean up ahead - it means look up - the
prison room is above you!
Clearly, this is not a prison room - it is an
The Master of Ceremonies to Alexander VI wrote
infamous prison was located with in the burial cella
(not in an
air shaft), and it was
still there in 1825.
sign is incorrect, as we will see in the next sign. (Not on this web
page - on the right hand side as one continues walking - the sign for
the elevator -
The elevator was added - NOT by Pope
Leo X (as the sign there says) - but for Clement XII (1734).
Then, end of the ramp - turn left to reach the area of
Trap door - right
in front of the people. They are leaving the area of the urns.
This drawbridge was built by Valadier in 1825. He made
everything in Rome that was made or re-made between 1800 and 1825.
urn area would have been lined in beautiful marbles (like yellow from
North Africa), and the niches by what are now windows would have held
jars with the ashes, yet Hadrian's porphyry tomb was also in here . . .
Bronze decorated lamps were suspended here, as well.
This was designed by Michelangelo for ope Julius II, with some work by
Rapahel di Montelupo, like the angel on the left. On the right are the
buildings for garrison services, and stairways in
the back leading to the promnades of Alexander VI and Pius IV. The
papal apartments (on the left, back) were built onto this central core
mausoleum and interrupt the wide, circular terrace which ran
all the way around. Up ahead, to the left in the photo, is the entrance
to the next part of the Castel available to us (there are some
entrances before that, but this is a better route). This angel was the
centerpiece on top of the monument. Damaged in 1747 and replaced with
the bronze statue by Pietro van Verschaffelt. Behind it are plaques on
the walls instructing soldiers of the size of cannon balls that would
be in piles here.
Look around here for grates on the floor that would be for light for
the prison cells down below - they should be behind the angel.
The photo on the right is a close-up of the aedicule designed by
Michelangelo, but then changed by Montelupo, and restored in the early
Staircase at the far end was added under Pope
the Grottesque decoration we see comes from Paul III Farnese, but he
originally build these rooms. These rooms were started by Pope Julius
II, then Leo X, and
include the sma
chapel on the far right after the entrance. But - Paul III redecorated everything
, so his
painting style stays. The
chapel was originally dedicated to St. Michael, but after, dedicated to
Sts. Cosmas and Damian, patron saints of
doctors, therefore patron saints to the Medici family (because of the
play on words with their family name). This chapel, at least, was
designed by Michelangelo, but high relief of the Madonna was done by
Raphael di Montelupo, who created the angel in the courtyard previous.
The painting was restored in 1948. King Midas is in here, the impartial
judge between Apollo and Pan. The 7 Liberal Arts are depicted in the
lunettes, and 9 muses are depicted in the 9 small temples on the walls.
These werew created by Perin del Vaga, adn finished by Donenico Zaga.
Turning in the opposite direction (but not outside), we come to
for Clement VIII
The 1st room is full of re-creation
battle stuff, and the photos above
show the entrance, then coat of arms on the ceiling in the Hall of Justice
so-called because of the Allegory of Justice on the wall in front of
the room. They really aren't 100% sure this is the room, but it had to
be around here somewhere, so . . . On the ceiling is the coat
of arms of Pope
Clement VIII (right frame), and in front of us (left side) is a
painting of an allegory for Justice (NOT St. Michael - this
one clearly has breasts!).
Notice the huge stone work below -
these rooms were part of the
original Hadrian mausoleum. We are now right above the Urn Room.
room contains a fireplace, with the Barberini and Colonna coat
as seen above, through the doorway. There are some ancient bric-a-brac
and weapons to admire here, then we can turn back and go out to the
courtyard on the other side.
This room also has a opening in the floor that
leads to a secret, underground passageway.
Just as you enter
this courtyard, there was a door on the
right. Peaking in the door, you will see a staircase on the left, which
leads to the personal bath and 'stove room' for Clement VII.
The courtyard beyond that was made for Julius II.
In this courtyard here, a frieze
festoons and putti run between the windows. "Graffito" can be seen
below this, painted in between the windows.
This is the Theatre Courtyard, with fake canonballs, a fake
war/shooting thing, but a real well, and the entrance to the prison.
Fake cannon balls (real ones aren't made of marble . . . )
display is at the Bastion of St. Mark. The canon balls don't fit in the
canons. It's just a mock display.
real silos for wheat
Prison entrance, where you
could languish for eternity . . .
From here, we exit to the covered
walkway designed for Pope Pius IV
Pius IV was the uncle of St. Charles Borromeo, and ended the
Inset is a photo of what little remains of the
decoration of the mausoleum.
Up ahead from this photo, you can pass through a
doorway to the logia
(balcony) for Pope Leo X, then the logia for Julius II, and after that
the Military Museum, then a
small cafeteria, or you can turn back and go up a large staircase to
next section of rooms on the upper level.
The Sala Paolina
Pope Paul III lived here for 13 years.
Decorated from June 1545 to September 1547, by a student of Raphael
named Perin del Vaga
and his assistants Pellegrino
(St. Michael) and Gerolamo Siciolante
This is the room where Paul III received delegations during his
Paintings are allegories of what he thought of himself - Alexander the
Great, Hadrian, St. Michael . . .
Greek, on the ceiling, it says, "Paul III, Pope, has transformed the
tomb of the Great Hadrian into a mighty and sacred abode." Because
Greek was the chosen language of Alexander and Hadrian.
Latin inscription says, "All
that within this castle was once decayed, defaced and inaccessible, now
through the merits of the pontiff Paul III one sees restored,
order and decorated to meet the needs of solidy, comfortable utility
and fine elegance."
The theme in all of
Paul III's fresco's is that he is the heir of the ancient emperors -
Hadrian, above all (since we're in his mausoleum and all) - and he is
the restorer of Rome's greatness. We must remember that Paul III became
pope after the devastating Sack of Rome in 1527, after Martin Luther
and - he's going to outlive Henry VIII by only 2 years. He calls the
Council of Trent to solve problems and here he is presenting himself as
a new Hadrian, a magnificent prince committed to reviving the city and
making it the capital of an empire.
What they were trying to do is
show a continuity between Paul III's reign and the reign of Hadrian:
the ancient emperor had consolidated the frontiers under external
threat, assimilated other cultures and instilled new vigour into the
ancient traditions of Classical Rome.
There are also paintings in here on St. Paul (for 'Paul' III) and
Alexander the Great, because Paul III's real name was Alexander.
Al the Great has The Poems of Homer Placed in a Chest. Paul depicts his
Nice painting with all the elephants is Porus
Attacked by Macedonian Soldiers.
small rooms off of this room were sitting rooms, private rooms or a
bedroom of the pope. One is
decorated in the theme of Perseus and the other is Cupid and Psyche
- supposedly a favorite topic of the students of Raphael.
There is also a small door that was cut into the
wall which gave the pope direct access to the Clenet VII bathhouse.
Paintings on the wall regard the life of Perseus.
The furniture in this room comes from various
provenances and dates and placed here in order to recreate the
atmosphere of the pope's apartments. It's clumsy.
Cupid and Psyche Room has recently restored paintings, with them as the
If you go through the opposite door, you'll pass through this hallway,
also misnamed the Pompein corridor. It's named after the city of
Pompey, as if the painting style was from there - but at the time of
Paul III, they didn't know about Pompey. The style was taken from
You are going from the Sala Paolina - reception room, basically, to the
library of Paul III.
Room of the Treasures - Room of the Library
Yet another mis-named area. The treasure "boxes" are in
next room - you can see them. This was a library for Paul III.
Decorations here were painted between 1543 - 1545, the work of Luzio
Luzi of Todi, who also worked in the Plazzo Doria. It is a combination
of frescoes and stucco alto-relievo.
The library intendes to
celebrate the legendary originals of Rome - using not only the
subject-matter, but the very painting style that they used - grottesque!
Michael and Hadrian are on opposite sides of the vault, showing that
the pope is sealing together the worlds of Classical tradition and
On the left
we have the center of the ceiling, with the coat of arms of the Farnese
family - the fleux-de-lis - (surrounded by unicorns) and, below, a
woman with a unicorn (symbol of chastity).
in the oval upright is the god Pan with a woman, some grottesque
decoration underneath, and then a scene with something to do with
here focuses on the greatness of Rome.
The oval plasters would have been covered in gold, and represent
various gods or allegories to Rome.
Paintings were done with a lot of research into the history of Rome,
because they represent
of the library you will see this small room - this is the Treasury
Room. The cabinets in the open to reveal the original Hadrian building
wall - this is where they believe Hadrians' tomb would have been.
From here, there is a narrow staircase leading to the outside with
views of Rome.
A few stories of the prison are up on top on the
The first archeological digs began here in the early 20th
century. There is a theory that there was a cult to the deified emperor
Hadrian who met in these rooms, because these rooms are part of the
construction - they weren't added later.
This picture shows oil amphore - but
this is also a recreation - the urns would not have been all cemented
in like this. Brought down directly from above. Also in this area are
wheat storage bins - one of those was turned into a prison cell in the
Important people in the prison had nicer
accomodations - the use of a separate bathroom, for example. Pictured
here is the bathroom door. This is where Celini escaped from, tying his
bed sheets together.
There was also another level under the prison - we don't know
what that was for, either. My theory - perhaps these were for the
of more ancient Romans - this was intended to be the mausoleum for all
the future emperors. Perhaps this was just more space made available.
This is a hallway with 3 cells. You have to bend
down to get through the door. The last doorway, is to a fairly large
hall. Picture below.
Cells for common criminals could hold 20 - 25
people, all awaiting capital punishment. They didn't get a bathroom.
Another interesting note - no torture instruments
Pictured here is the inside of a cell. Visitors
would speak to you from above.
This could get pretty cold and damp during the winter season.
One of the cells also originally had the addition of huge
limestone blocks that would have been covered with nice marble - we
don't know what this room was intended for.
This is a large room at the end of the prison
cell hallway. They don't know the original use of this room, so one
theory is that they tortured prisoners here!
BUT - they didn't find any torture devices, and
tests have not been done to find any blood residue.
My theory - it was a place for the prisoners to
walk around a bit, or, it was a cell used for rioters (larger groups of
people), or, it simply wasn't used at all. These rooms weren't built by
the popes, but in the 2nd century A.D.
All of the modern metal we see is to hold the
This is good - the holes in the door are for the prisoner inside to
stick his arms through when they are going to open the door.
the way, this Castel and the Colosseum are the most frequented
"museums" in Rome, so the ticket money often goes to the support of the
other museums in Rome. This is one of the reasons why they haven't done
any other studies on the Castel - they don't have the money.
And, one last word - Dan
Brown. He threw the Castel in his novel - but he described it
incorrectly - he never visited here. What he was describing was not
place - and may not be any place accept his imagination!