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Beeing at the top os St.Peter Basilica and looking in front of you along Via della Conciliazione, you can see the wonderful Castel of Castel Sant’Angelo.  This impressive large circular construction was built by emperor Hadrian in 130-139 AC as a mausoleum for himself and his family in substitution of one, already built on the opposite side of the Tiberby emperor Augustus.
The height is nearly 50m, the design belongs to Hadrian. The mausoleum consisted of a base 89m sq., supporting a round tower 64m in diameter of peperino and travertine overlaid with marble.
Above this was an earthen tumulus planted with cypress trees. At the top was an altar bearing a bronze quadriga driven by a charioteer representing Hadrian, as the Sun, ruler of the world. Inside the building is a spiral ramp, which led to a straight passageway ending in the cella, in which was the Imperial tomb. Hadrian and Sabina (his wife) were buried in the mausoleum, as were succeeding emperors until Septimus Severus in 175.
The mausoleum was gradually transformed into a castle. Theodoric, the king of Italy (493-526), used it as a prison and for a time it became known as carceres Theodorici. By the late 12C the castle was established as papal property. In 1378 it was severely damaged by the citizens of Rome, resentful of foreign domination. In the reign of Boniface IX rebuilding begun. Alexander VI had A.da Sangallo the Elder complete the four bastions of the square inner ward which had been begun by Nicolas V.
From 1849 to 1870 the castle was occupied by French troops. Under the Italian Government it was used as barracks and as a prison until 1901, when the work of restoration was begun. In 1933-34 the castle was adapted for use as a museum (58rooms) and the surrounding area was cleared. It is named – National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo (Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo).
Being an official prison for many centuries Castel S.Angelo contains numerous prison cells, to begin with those built by Pius IV with the sizes that wouldn’t permit a prisoner to stand on the legs and lie, the only position possible was sitting.
In the so called Cortile Dal Pozzo, built by Alexander VI, were the cells reserved for important persons. For example, here in 1538 – beginning of 1539 for the first time was held Benvenuto Cellini, where he could continue his activity as a sculptor and from where he escaped using the rope made of the pieces of bed sheet. But he was caught in a short time and re-imprisoned again till the end of 1539, but this time – in underground cell.
The processes over the prisoners were held in the Hall of Justice, it was built in Roman times above the sepulchral cella, and has a fresco of Justice attributed to Domenico Zaga.
The executions took place out of the castle on the other side of the Tiber, but in a lot of cases -inside of the castle, right in the cells.
In 1925 the National Museum of Caste Sant’Angelo was founded to celebrate the glories of the Army. Today the interior of the castle can be visited with its seventeenth century rich frescoed halls (Hall of Apollo, Hall of Paolina decorated with the Stories of Alexander the Great, Hall of Perseus with episode of the myth of the Greek hero, Room of Amore and Psiche), the prisons, the collection of antique arms, the collection of ancient marbles, ceramics, and sculptures.
Visit for more info :  http://www.castelsantangelo.com/

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