If you’re looking to cross the Tiber River in historic style as you head from Rome towards the Vatican City*, look no further than Ponte Sant’Angelo.
Originally built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 134 AD, the travertine marble bridge’s original moniker was Pons Aelius (Aelian Bridge), which translates to Bridge of Hadrian.
Being that this bridge became the means by which pilgrims would cross the river on their way to the St Peter’s Basilica, it became known as St Peter’s Bridge.
However, after an angel was said to have appeared on the bridge to announce the end of the plague, Pope Gregory I officially nominated the bridge, ‘Ponte Sant’Angelo’ (Saint Angel’s Bridge), with Castel Sant’Angelo standing just by.
The bridge has undergone several changes throughout its long history. It used to be accessed by ramps from the river’s edge until it was extended to cross from bank to bank. There were once houses and a Roman arch at one end of the bridge. These were pulled down in the mid-1400s to make more pedestrian room after many pilgrims drowned due to overcrowding throughout jubilee festivities which caused the balustrades to give in.
On a more macabre note, for several centuries from the 16th century onwards, bodies of the executed were displayed along the bridge.
There used to be a toll to cross the bridge. Monies paid were used by Pope Clement VII (Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici) to create statues of apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, which were placed on the bridge in the mid-1500s.
Additionally statues of Moses, Noah, Adam and Abraham were added to the collection.
Just over a century later however, these statues had seen better days and so Pope Paul III called for 10 angels holding instruments of the Passion to be created, which still stand to this day.
* A country unto itself, by the way.