Leading up to Castel Sant’Angleo is what we now call the Ponte Sant’Angelo, however it has had many names. In the past it was known as Pons Aelius, that is Hadrian’s Bridge, as the structure which stands there is actually Hadrian’s Mausoleum. Later it was known as Pons Sancti Petri because pilgrims would take this bridge to read St. Peters Basilica.
Though the bridge looks beautiful today with its many angels draped in flowing cloth, it has quite a dark history. The bridge collapsed once killing many pilgrims who were trapped on it. It was then used a exhibition space for the bodies of executed criminals, much like the Appia Antica once was. Later under Pope Clement IX in 1669 the bridge was cleaned up and decorated with these angels.
Many books may say these angels were done by Bernini, however they were only completed under his school, and the two which Bernini actually worked on, the originals remain in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, where they can be seen today.
There are 10 Angels, all holding symbols of the Passion, this includes: Column, Whips, Crown of Thorns, Sudarium, Garment and Dice, Nails, Cross, superscription, Sponge and lance. Every Angel was completed by a different member of Bernini s pupils.
Though Bernini did not personally work on every one, his style is obvious and each Angel is just as beautiful as any original work of his.