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Historic papal passageway temporarily open to visitors

From today, Roman residents and visitors will be able to walk the historic "passageway of popes" that connects the Vatican with the Castel Sant'Angelo on the bank of the Tiber.

The walled passageway, almost one kilometre long, is part of a defensive wall that was built in the 6th century to protect the Pope. The wall eventually collapsed into ruins over the next three centuries, but was rebuilt at the order of Pope Leo III. In 816 it was demolished by Roman residents who were worried by the growing political power of the papacy. But in 848, after the sack of St. Peter's basilica, Pope Leo IV ordered the wall rebuilt once again. Since that time it has been called the Leonine Wall.

In 1277, a long enclosed corridor was added to the Leonine Wall, designed specifically to give the Pope a ready means of retreat from the Vatican to the Castel Sant'Angelo in case of armed attack. Only the Pope himself held the keys to this corridor.

In modern times the Leonine Wall has been the subject of keen interest among historians and tourists, and it has regularly been restored to repair the damage caused by time and erosion.

From time to time, the Leonine Wall and the papal passageway are opened to visitors, most recently during the 2000 Jubilee Year. The current opening lasts until 10 August.

Catholic World News

Castel St Angelo

24 Jul 2003