The Ponte Sant’ Angelo was constructed in 134, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138). The bridge was first known as Pons Aelius and served as a triumphal approach from the city to the mausoleum that Hadrian (whose full name was Publius Aelius Hadrianus) had just had built.
The bridge was later called the Pons Sancti Petri, as it was used by pilgrims to reach St Peter's Basilica. It was only at the end of the sixth century that it came to be known as the Ponte Sant' Angelo, following the transformation of the mausoleum into the Castel Sant’ Angelo.
Only the central three arches belong to the original bridge, the other two arches were added at the end of the 19th century when the embankments were constructed.
In 1667 Pope Clement IX (r. 1667-69) commissioned the great Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) to add ten statues of angels, bearing the Instruments of Christ's Passion, to the parapets of the bridge. Each angel stands on a pedestal, which bears an inscription in Latin.
Bernini carved two of the angels himself,* but farmed the rest of the work out to various fellow sculptors, including Ercole Ferrata, Cosimo Fancelli and Antonio Raggi. The master did, however, provide sketches and terracotta models of the whole series to ensure an acceptable degree of conformity.
The ten angels are:
Angel with the Column by Antonio Raggi: TRONVS MEA IN COLVMNA (My throne is upon a column).
Angel with the Whips by Lazzaro Morelli: IN FLAGELLA PARATVS SVM (I am ready for the whip).
Angel with the Crown of Thorns by Paolo Naldini: IN AERVMNA MEA DVM CONFIGITVR SPINA (In my agony, while it is pierced with throns).
Angel with Veronica's Veil by Cosimo Fancelli: RESPICE IN FACIEM CHRISTI FVI (Look upon the face of thine anointed).
Angel with the Garment and Dice by Paolo Naldini: SVPER VESTEM MEAM MISERVNT SORTEM (They have cast lots for my garment).
Angel with the Nails by Girolamo Lucenti: ASPICIANT AD ME QVEM CONFIXERVNT (Let them look upon me whom they have crucified).
Angel with the Cross by Ercole Ferrata: CVIVS PRINCIPATVS SVPER HVMERVM EIVS (Whose lordship is upon his shoulder).
Angel with the Titulus by Giulio Cartari: REGNAVIT A LIGNO DEVS (God has reigned from a tree).
Angel with the Sponge by Antonio Giorgetti: POTAVERVNT ME ACETO (They have given me vinegar to drink).
Angel with the Lance by Domenico Guidi: VVLNERASTI COR MEVM (Thou has wounded my heart).
In addition to the ten angels, there are two statues of Saint Peter by Lorenzetto (1490-1541) and Saint Paul by Paolo Romano (died after 1470). The statues of Rome's two patron saints were set up at the behest of Pope Clement VII (r. 1523-34) in 1534. The inscription below St Peter reads: HINC HVMILIBVS VENIA (Hence pardon for the humble) and that below St Paul: HINC RETRIBVTIO SVPERBIS (Hence retribution for the haughty). * The two statues that Bernini carved are now in the church of Sant' Andrea delle Fratte, having been replaced by copies.