Home Architectural Travel Postcard: Ponte Sant Angelo, Rome

Postcard: Ponte Sant Angelo, Rome

by Penny Sadler

Last spring, the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas hosted the exhibition Bernini: Sculpting in Clay. It was at that exhibition, I realized that even after multiple trips to Rome, I’d never actually walked across the Ponte Sant Angelo.

The original bridge, called Pons Aelius, was constructed in 136 A.D., during the time of Hadrian. Hadrian wanted to connect the city of Rome with his tomb, now known as Castello Sant Angelo.

In 590 A.D., rumour has it that an archangel appeared atop the Castello and the bridge was renamed Ponte Sant Angelo, or bridge of the angel.

Later, the bridge was part of the walking route used by pilgrims visiting St. Peter’s Cathedral in the city of Rome.

When you walk across the Ponte Sant Angelo, you’ll be accompanied by ten stunning sculptures of angels. The ten angels were not always there, of course. They were added in 1668 by order of Pope Clements IX. He engaged the fabulous Bernini to sculpt ten angels, each holding something to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.

Postcard: Ponte Sant Angelo, Rome

As you may have guessed by this postcard, I finally walked across the bridge. I can now scratch that off my Bernini bucket list.

Tip: Try getting up early and beating the crowds, if you can. It’s really nice to be able to study each angel at leisure without distraction. It’s also a great time to take photographs as the sun slowly moves west, illuminating the bridge and St.Peter’s cathedral on the other side.

Though there are ten angels, Bernini only sculpted two of them; his apprentices sculpted the other eight. Pope Clements thought the Bernini angels were so beautiful, he didn’t want them exposed to the elements. Bernini’s two angels, one holding the crown of thorns, the other holding the INRI sign, now live in the church Sant Andrea della Fratte, not far from the Spanish Steps. It’s not usually crowded there, so if you go to see them, you can worship at the altar of Bernini in relative peace and quiet. It is a working church and hours are limited. Be sure to check visiting hours before you go.

If you are a fan of Bernini or just interested in the history of Rome and the Catholic church, visiting the bridge is an interesting and easy attraction to work into your day, especially if you’re planning on visiting St.Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museums.

One more tip: when I was on the bridge, I noticed something else that I had not noticed before: the beautiful reflection of the bridge on the water of the Tiber river. Rome always reveals just a little bit more than you expect.

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21 comments

Terry at Overnight New York April 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm

What a nice mix of history and visiting tips. I love the back story of the angels. Apprentices did a lot of work back then, didn’t they; they were the art world’s 17th-century equivalent of interns.

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Penny Sadler April 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Terry, good analogy. Exactly!

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zaher April 9, 2014 at 5:04 am

How old is this place ?!

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Suki F April 8, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Stunning!! I still can’t believe that among my travels I haven’t made it to Rome.

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Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 5:12 am

Thank you! Where do you like to go?

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Matthew Hirtes April 8, 2014 at 5:25 am

Haven’t got to Rome yet. Will I like it more than Florence, Penny? When I do get there, however, I’m definitely crossing this bridge.

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Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 5:12 am

Will you like it more than Florence? I can’t say really, can I? Let me know!

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Valen-This Way To Paradise April 8, 2014 at 4:13 am

Sometimes Rome is like a dream. Nice picture!!

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Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 5:13 am

Thanks Val!

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Mary @Green Global Travel April 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for sharing your tips on visiting the Ponte Sant Angelo. I think getting up early is the secret to visiting any major tourist attraction.

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Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 5:13 am

I agree about the getting up early bit and do so often.

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Micki April 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

What a beautiful place! I love the tip about starting early – I find that this sort of place is always so much more enjoyable when it’s a little bit quieter. I’m dying to go – I haven’t been to Rome yet.

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Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 5:16 am

I agree! The crowds can make it really unpleasant if you don’t go in the right frame of mind. I’ve been to Rome often enough now I know what time of day to go most places. But, it’s always crowded.

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Lillie - @WorldLillie April 6, 2014 at 7:06 pm

So beautiful. This brings back great memories of my trails along the bridges of Rome. And as you say, there’s always something more to notice. I’m now appreciating (thanks to your photo) the drape of the “cloth” on the sculptures.

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Penny Sadler April 6, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Hey Lillie, nice to hear from a fellow lover of Rome. Bernini had that “cloth” thing down. 🙂

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Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com April 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I walked across the Ponte Sant Angelo on the way to the Vatican without knowing what it was. I did notice the angels though, and I only learned about the bridge’s importance when I got back to my host and researched about it haha

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Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 5:17 am

Aleah I learn about a lot of things like that – after the fact! It usually makes me want to know more and to visit again.

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas April 6, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Really like the framing here, Penny! It’s been ages since I’ve been to Rome…

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Penny Sadler April 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Thanks! I never get tired of Rome. She’s a great subject!

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Wandering Educators April 2, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Love this story! And crazy that he only did 2 of the 10!

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Penny Sadler April 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Thanks! Yes it is crazy, but how lucky to be able to apprentice with Bernini!

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