Origins in Roman antiquitySeven Roman emperors were buried in the Castel Sant'Angelo. Originally built between 134 and 139 AD as a tomb for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family, the fortress still served as the final resting place for those who succeeded him until the death of Caracalla in 217 AD. After the structure was converted into a military fortress in 401 AD and shortly thereafter robbed during the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 AD, many treasures of the former tomb were lost. Remaining material from the mausoleum was used to build churches when Christianity made its entrance in ancient Rome.
The legend of the Castel Sant'AngeloPope Gregory is said to have had a vision of the Archangel Michael on the roof of the castle in 590 AD - hence its name today. According to this story, the Archangel spread his sword over the castle and thus brought an end to the plague. Therefore, a marble sculpture of the Archangel adorned the castle since 1536, where it would stay for about 200 years.
Refuge of the PopesAt the latest under Pope Clement VII, the Castel Sant'Angelo took on a whole new role - especially as a papal refuge. During the renewed plundering of Rome in 1527, Clement VII sought protection in the extremely steadfast fortress. Since then, the appearance of the former imperial tomb changed drastically. Thus, Leo X had a chapel with a Madonna by Raffaello da Montelupo, who also designed the original sculpture of the Archangel Michael, built. Paul III, on the other hand, had a splendid apartment built that guaranteed the popes a suitable place to stay during potential sieges.
The Fortress As A MuseumSince the beginning of the 20th century, the Castel Sant'Angelo has been a museum. A multi-year restoration was necessary for this, after it had sometimes served as a store for war materials and was shut down in 1901. At the initiative of two Italian military men, the historical treasures were renovated and opened to the public from 1906. In 1925 the building was inaugurated as a museum by King Vittorio Emanuele III.