Castel Sant' Angelo is crowned with a beautiful bronze statue of St Michael the Archangel, the work of the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt (1710-93).
The statue of St Michael is just one of several to have graced the summit of the castle and its origin goes back to the year 590 when Rome was suffering from a serious outbreak of the plague.
Pope Gregory the Great (r. 590-604) took to the streets, at the head of a large procession, to pray for an end to the outbreak. While crossing the Pons Aelius (today's Ponte Sant' Angelo) the Pope is said to have had a vision of an angel atop Hadrian's mausoleum. The angel was returning his sword to its sheath, an act that was interpreted as heralding the end of the plague. Hadrian's mausoleum was duly renamed Castel Sant' Angelo.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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