Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for, without being seen, they are present with you. – St Francis de Sales
The Sculptures of Ponte Sant’Angelo: Bridge of Angels, Rome
One of my favorite places in Rome, I found while walking between the crowded and celestial Vatican City toward the Tiber River. On the left, beside giant Stone pine trees, a faded castle squats on the river bank. Beside it, a marble bridge spans the river, decorated with ten alabaster angels, each different and evocative in their individuality. I’m continuing a series on art I discovered and enjoyed while I lived in Europe. Today’s art: the angels of Castel Sant’ Angelo and the bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo.
The massive fortress is called the Castel Sant’Angelo, and is one of my favorite places in Rome. The Castel Sant’Angelo has a colorful history, including being the place Popes used to hide out in during seiges and wars, because it is accessible by a raised viaduct to escape in secrecy from the Vatican.
Dan Brown used the Castel Sant’Angelo in his novel Angels and Demons, and Puccini’s opera Tosca, Floria Tosca famously throws herself from the Castel rooftop to evade capture.
At the top of the Castel Sant’Angelo, the sculpture of an angel stands with his sword stretched to the sky. The name Sant’Angelo is used from a legend dating back to the 7th century A.D., when the Archangel Michael was said to have been seen standing atop the Castel with his sword drawn, to signify the end of the plague of 590 A.D.
The sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the ten beautiful angel sculptures which guard the bridge. Each angel was created to symbolize parts of the story of Jesus Christ’s suffering and crucifixion.
Pope Clement IX commissioned Bernini in 1669 with the creation and sculpting of the art for the bridge.
Bernini only actually sculpted two of the angels, the one with I.N.R.I. inscripted and the one with the crown of thorns.
The angels mounted on the Ponte Sant’Angelo today are replicas of the actual sculptures.
All over Europe, art of every form, texture, age, and era stands to point us back to history, to the events and times which shape who we are today. Next week, I’ll be back with another set of photographs of art which I loved. Thanks for joining me here, and have a great week!