there are three pedestrian only bridges that cross the tiber river in rome – ponte fabricio (which really only crosses the river from the left bank to tiber island), ponte sisto, and ponte sant’angelo.  i have observed that ponte sant’angelo gets about four times the amount of foot traffic than the other two.  the majority of the people crossing ponte sant’angelo appear to be tourists, as the bridge is one of the main routes from the historic center of rome to the vatican, castel sant’angelo, and the district of prati.  one aspect that makes ponte sant’angelo not only a transportation route, but rather a destination in itself, are the 10 angels that decorate the bridge.  because the bridge is a destination it brings people to the tiber, and encourages them not to just pass over it, but to spend time above and near it.  for me, this makes ponte sant’angelo one of the most significant bridges in rome.  i consider it as much of a piazza as it is a bridge.

each angel carries an instrument of christ’s passion, and were commissioned by pope clement ix to gian lorzeno bernini (1598–1680) when the artist was 70 years old.  bernini designed all of the 10 angels, and while his assistants carried out much of the work between 1660 and 1668, bernini himself sculpted the the angel with the crown of thorns, and the angel with the superscription. below are some of my favorites.

angel with the cross


angel with the superscription


angel with garment and dice


angel with the nails


angel with the sudarium


angel with the crown of thorns


angel with the whips


angel with the column

last time i visited ponte sant’angelo a man taking photos next to me was humming one of my favorite tom petty songs, which i immediately recognized because i have been thinking of it each time i visit the bridge myself…  angel dream (no.4) from the album, she’s the one:

I dreamed you, I saw your face
Caught my lifeline when drifting through space
I saw an angel, I saw my fate
I can only thank God it was not too late

Over mountains I floated away
Across an ocean I dreamed her name
I followed an angel down through the gates
I can only thank God it was not too late

Sing a little song of loneliness
Sing one to make me smile
Another round for everyone
I’m here for a little while

Now I’m walking this street on my own
But she’s with me everywhere I go
Yeah I found an angel, I found my place
I can only thank God it was not too late
I can only thank God it was not too late
I can only thank God it was not too late

complete list of angels: angel with the column, angel with the whips, angel with the crown of thorns, angel with the sudarium, angel with garment and dice, angel with the nail, angel with the cross, angel with the superscription, angel with the sponge, angel with the lance