bridge of the angels

Ponte Sant’Angelo: Rome’s Bridge of Angels

Sant’Angelo Bridge, Italian Ponte Sant’Angelo, is ancient bridge built by the Emperor Hadrian to link the left bank of the Tiber with the Castel Sant’Angelo. There are seven stone arches and five main spans supported on piers. Moreover, you can make a journey along the Via Crucis  and admire ten beautiful angel sculptures designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which decorate the construction and statues of the saints Peter and Paul that watch over the entrance way of it.

History

Sant’Angelo Bridge is one of the finest surviving in Rome nowadays. It was built by the emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138 A.D.) to connect the Campus Martius with Castel Sant’Aneglo (or The Mausoleum of Hadrian). At the time the bridge was known as the “Aelian Bridge” or “Bridge of Hadrian.” The construction was completed about 135 A.D.

the bridge of angels

During the Middle Ages the bridge was important because it served as the only controlled passageway for pilgrims on their way to Saint Peter’s Basilica

The current name of Sant’Angelo is used since the 7th century because of the legend in which Archangel Michael was seen atop the castle Sant’Angelo while sword drawn to finish the plague of 590 A.D.

sant angelo bridge

During the 16th century, Sant’Angelo Bridge was used as a place to show bodies of the executed to convey warning to the locals

At the end of the bridge, you can see the statues of Saint Peter holding the keys of heaven sculpted by II Lorenzetto in 1534 and Saint Paul holding the sward by Paolo Romano in 1464. They are inscribed with the words “Hinc humilibus venia” (“Here forgiveness to the humble”) and “Hinc retribuito superbis” (Here punishment for the prideful”).

The Angels

In 1667, Pope Clement IX had commissioned the creation of the sculptures along the bridge. The architect who made the design was Gian Lorenzo Bernini. However, he only finished the creation of two angels – the Angel with the Superscription “I.N.R.I.” and the angel with the Crown of Thorns. In 1669, before the death, Clemet IX saw these statues and decided that they are too magnificent for the bridge. Today, you can see these angles in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte near Piazza di Spagna. However, Bernini’s ideas and design were brought to life by his successors.

sant angelo bridge

Each sculpture of angel symbolizes a part from the story of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death by crucifixion

Each of the statues is made from white marble. Moreover, each angel holds an instrument of the Passion: they present them to passersby, the same as along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem or on the Sacred Mountain of Varallo.

bridge of angels

By 1670, all the sculptures were finished and placed to the bridge

The bases of the angels are inscribed with verses from the Bible. This sign transforms the instruments of the Passion into instances of Christ’s majesty and is a symbol of divine glory.

  1. The first angel was sculpted by Antoni Raggi. The angel holds up the flogging column to which Jesus was tied. You can also see the inscription: “My throne is upon a column.”
  2. The second angel, work of Lazzaro Morelli, with sadness contemplates the whips that wounded the Lord. The inscription is: “I’m ready for the scourge.”
  3. The third angel was sculpted by Paolo Naldini and finished by Bernini. The angel represents a symbol of the vane blindness of the people who didn’t recognize Christ’s authority. The inscription reads: “The thorn is fastened upon me.”
  4. The fourth angel, by Cosimo Fancelli, looks with pity on the face of Christ impressed in blood on the Veil of Veronica with the inscription: “Look upon the face of your Christ.”
  5. The fifth angel was sculpted by Paolo Naldini and holds the garment and dice with the inscription: “For my clothing they cast lots.”
  6. The sixth angel, by Girolamo Lucenti, holds the nails that punctured the hands and feet of Jesus. The inscription reads: “They will look upon me whom they have pierced.”
  7. The seventh angel was sculpted by Ercole Ferrata and holds the cross as a symbol of the Passion and faith in “Him.” The inscription reads: “Dominion rests on his shoulders.”
  8. The eight’s angel, officially entrusted to Giulio Cartari, is the replica of Bernini’s work with the “I.N.R.I.” superscription. The inscription read: “God has reigned from the tree.”
  9. The ninth angel, by Antonio Giorgetti, notices with a deep sorrow the sponge added to the end of his stick. The inscription reads: “They gave me vinegar to drink.”
  10. The tenth angel, sculpted by Domenico Guidi, reminds pilgrims of the pain men’s sins caused Jesus. The inscription is: “You have ravished my heart.”

All sculptures stand on marble clouds of different degrees of fullness. They allow you to make a journey along the Via Crucis and admire the symbolic instruments, the chronological and narrative moments in the Passion of Christ.

The Bridge Today

Sant’Angelo Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in the world even nowadays because it is symmetrical, regular, open to light, and has a perfect distance between water and arches. Moreover, the bridge connects Rome to Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Nevertheless, the main feature of the construction is in the charming statues of the angels. Also, the bridge’s three central arches are originals from the ancient Roman era.

the bridge of angels

The Bridge of Angels is a pedestrian area

How to Get

You can get bus 87 from the Colosseum or bus 46 from Piazza Venezia. Also, you can take a metro from Termini station (Line A, Battistini) and travel to Lepanto stop. The bridge located in the historical center of Rome, near the Vatican, so it is pretty easy to find it.

The church with two original angel sculptures by Bernini:

  • Sant’Andrea della Fratte Church:  Via di Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, 1
  • 6.30 am to 12.30 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm.

Sant’Angelo Bridge is remarkable and magnificent construction. It is one of the main must-see sites in Rome. Tell us about your emotions after visiting the bridge in comments!

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Author: Yekaterina Zusmann

Yekaterina Zusmann
For the last five years I live in Rome, Italy. Recently, I've graduated from the American university of John Cabot with major in communication and minor in entrepreneurship. I have a passion for writing, traveling, and exploring new things.

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