In times past, pilgrims used this bridge to reach St Peter's Basilica, hence it was known also with the name of "bridge of Saint Peter" (pons Sancti Petri). In the seventh century, under Pope Gregory I, both the castle and the bridge took on the name Sant'Angelo, explained by a legend that an angel appeared on the roof of the castle to announce the end of the plague. During the 1450 jubilee, balustrades of the bridge yielded, due to the great crowds of the pilgrims, and many drowned in the river. In response, some houses at the head of the bridge as well as a Roman triumphal arch were pulled down in order to widen the route for pilgrims.
For centuries after the sixteenth century, the bridge was used to expose the bodies of the executed. In 1535, Pope Clement VII allocated the toll income of the bridge to erecting the statues of the apostles saint Peter and Saint Paul to which subsequently the four evangelists and the patriarchs were added to other representing statues Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. In 1669 Pope Clement IX commissioned replacements for the aging stucco angels by Raffaello da Montelupo, commissioned by Paul III. Bernini's program, one of his last large projects, called for ten angels holding instruments of the Passion: he personally only finished the two originals of the Angels with the Superscription "I.N.R.I." and with the Crown of Thorns, but these were kept by Clement IX for his own pleasure. They are now in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, also in Rome.
List of angels
- Angel with the Column (Throne) (Antonio Raggi, inscription "Tronus meus in columna").
- Angel with the Whips (Lazzaro Morelli, inscription "In flagella paratus sum").
- Angel with the Crown of Thorns (Bernini and son Paolo, now in church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte. Copy on the bridge by Paolo Naldini (inscription "In aerumna mea dum configitur spina").
- Angel with the Sudarium (Veronica’s Veil) (Cosimo Fancelli, Respice faciem Christi tui).
- Angel with the Garment and Dice (Paolo Naldini, inscription "super vestimentum meum miserunt sortem").
- Angel with the Nail (Girolamo Lucenti, inscription "Aspicient ad me quem confixerunt").
- Angel with the Cross (Ercole Ferrata, registration "Cuius principatus super humerum eius").
- Angel with the Superscription (Copy by Giulio Cartari (inscription "Regnavit a ligno deus").
- Angel with the Sponge (with vinegar) (Antonio Giorgetti, inscription "Potaverunt me aceto").
- Angel with the Lance (Domenico Guidi, inscription "Vulnerasti cor meum").
Of the statues on bridge prior to Bernini's update, only those of the two apostles, Saint Peter and Paul, remain.
- Colin O'Connor, Roman Bridges, Cambridge Univ. Press (1994) ISBN 0-521-39326-4
- Roman bridge
- List of Roman bridges
- The Waters of Rome: Tiber River Bridges and the Development of the Ancient City of Rome
- Ponte di Castel Sant'Angelo Virtual 360° panorama and photos.
- Satellite image
- Angels of the Passion Multimedia feature from Beliefnet.com