Four of the 11 bridges along this part of the Tiber are of special interest. The Ponte Sant’Angelo, to which Bernini was asked to add angels, is in the main the Pons Aelius built in ad 134. A year later Hadrian began his tomb, just off the end of the bridge. A towering cylinder 20 metres high on a square base, it was in size and form a typical imperial mausoleum. In 271 it was built into the Aurelian Wall and became a key fortress in the defense of Rome. In 587 Gregory the Great, leading a procession to pray for the end to a plague, allegedly had a vision of the archangel Michael atop the tomb. The epidemic ceased and the tomb-citadel became known as the Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel). In time it became a papal castle, with richly furnished and frescoed rooms, loggias for the view, a siege store of 5,800 gallons (22,000 litres) of oil and 770,000 pounds (350,000 kilograms) of grain, a centrally heated bathroom, a prison that incarcerated Benvenuto Cellini, among others, and a still-intact fortified passage from the Vatican to carry the pope to refuge there. It is now a state museum with an arboured terrace.
At Tiber Island are two bridges. The Ponte Cestio, often rebuilt since the 1st century bc, leads to Trastevere, while the Ponte Fabricio (62 bc), the oldest in Rome, runs from the shore below the Capitoline. The island, 1,100 feet long and less than 330 feet wide at its widest, has been a place of healing since the Temple of Aesculapius was erected after the plague of 291 bc; the largest building there is the Fatebenefratelli Hospital (also called the Hospital of S. Giovanni di Dio). Facing the hospital is another of Rome’s towered medieval family fortresses, this one built by the Pierleone.
The traffic howls along both banks, noisier and more voracious than the wolves of the Pierleone’s anarchic Rome, but on the island peace prevails. Just downstream are the remains of the Ponte Rotto (Broken Bridge) of 179 bc and two bridges farther along. The modern Ponte Sublicio is named for the wooden bridge defended by Horatius and his comrades on this part of the river. Britannica enciclopedia "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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