Papal dungeons reopen for tourists

After a ten-year restoration period, the former papal dungeons in Castel Sant'Angelo are reopening to tourists.

Catholic World News reports that for a month from last week, visitors will be able to arrange tours of the cramps cells in the basement of the historic castle near the Tiber River, where convicts were held by the Papal States.

The International Herald Tribune adds that organisers said the brief reopening of the restored prison is part of a summer festival of concerts and cultural events that takes place in Castel Sant'Angelo - a 2nd century monumental tomb built for the Roman emperor Hadrian later reused as a fortress by the popes.

Guides conducting the tours - which will take place only at night, to intensify the gloomy atmosphere - will be prepared to tell the stories of some of the most famous inmates in the papal prison, such as Benvenuti Cellini.

Florentine Renaissance master Cellini was held in the fortress for about a year in 1538 for killing his brother's murderer.

Cellini drew on the walls of his cell images of God and Jesus, traces of which are still visible, and made a failed escape attempt by lowering himself from the prison's toilet with a rope made of sheets.

The grim dungeons built in the fort's cellars by Pope Alexander VI in 1503 have inspired artists such as Puccini, Shelley, and Dumas.

Papal dungeons reopen for tourists (Catholic World News, 12/7/07)
Papal dungeon in Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo reopens to visitors for 2 months (International Herald Tribune, 12/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Castel Sant'Angelo (Wikipedia)
Castel Sant'Angelo panorama and photos

Historic papal passageway temporarily open to visitors (CathNews, 24/7/03)

16 Jul 2007