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A. Nickerson :: Rome’s Angels & Demons


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Rome’s Angels & Demons
The Insider’s Guide to the Locations
Featured in the Book and Movie
Angela K. Nickerson

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A. Nickerson :: Rome’s Angels & Demons

  1. 1. Rome’s Angels & Demons The Insider’s Guide to the Locations Featured in the Book and Movie Angela K. Nickerson ROARING FORTIES PRESS  BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA
  2. 2. A Note from the Author of This Guide In Angels & Demons, Dan Brown places his fictional characters in the very real city of Rome, lacing together historical realities and fictional possibilities to create a tale so entrancing that copies of the book were seen in the hands of the faithful who converged on St. Peter’s to mourn the death of Pope John Paul II. As a lover of both fiction and Rome, I wrote this guide to give readers and viewers of Angels & Demons a deeper appreciation of the history that underlies Dan Brown’s story. In part, this guide draws on my book A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome, which explores the life and career of the man who did more than any other to shape the art and architecture of the Eternal City. Not only did Michelangelo inspire artists such as Raphael and Bernini, he also designed many of the defining landmarks in the city through which Langdon and Vittoria race to save the Vatican. A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome tells the story of Michelangelo’s meteoric rise and artistic breakthroughs, of his tempestuous relations with powerful patrons, and of his austere but passionate private life. Each chapter focuses on a particular work that stunned his contemporaries and continues to impress today’s visitors. A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome is available at bookstores throughout the United States and online through the usual venues, as well as at the Roaring Forties Press website, In writing Rome’s Angels & Demons, I have been thankful for Christine Cantera’s photographic work ( And, as always, I owe much to Nigel Quinney and Deirdre Greene, extraordinary editors and sounding boards both. In addition, I appreciate the help of Zach Larson. As you retrace the steps of Robert Langdon, Vittoria Vetra, the Hassassin, and the camerlengo, I hope you will find a new and exciting perspective on the city of Rome. Buon viaggio! Roaring Forties Press 1053 Santa Fe Avenue Berkeley, California 94706 All rights reserved; first published in 2009. Copyright © by Angela K. Nickerson ISBN 9780977742998 This publication is not endorsed by Dan Brown, the publisher of Angels & Demons, or the makers of the film of the same name.
  3. 3. Contents Introduction 1. Important Historical Figures in Angels & Demons 1 Galileo Galilei 2 Raphael of Urbino 5 Gianlorenzo Bernini 7 Map of Rome: Locations Featured in Angels & Demons 9 2. The Vatican and the Holy See 10 Defending the Vatican: The Swiss Guard and Il Passetto 12 St. Peter's Basilica 15 The Sistine Chapel 19 The Scavi and St. Peter 23 The Vatican Secret Archives 25 3. The Path of Illumination 27 Egyptian Obelisks in Rome 28 A False Start: The Pantheon 30 Earth: Santa Maria del Popolo 32 Air: Piazza San Pietro 34 Fire: Santa Maria della Vittoria 36 Water: Piazza Navona 38 The Church of Illumination: Castel Sant'Angelo 41 About the Author 43 About Roaring Forties Press 43
  4. 4. Introduction Religion, art, and politics converge in Rome. It is the city of caesars and scoundrels, sculptors and senators, saints and centurions. On this rich stage, Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons unfolds. Professor Robert Langdon, Harvard symbologist-turned- detective, and Vittoria Vetra, brilliant physicist, hurtle through the streets of Rome in a race against time. The Illuminati, a shadowy secret organization, plans to end the centuries-old debate between science and religion once and for all, and Langdon and Vittoria must stop the Illuminati before its members obliterate Vatican City and the treasures therein. It’s no wonder that the spellbinding book was turned into a blockbuster movie. Part of the appeal lies in the setting. As Langdon and Vittoria dash around Rome, they face a fictional villain in real places. The College of Cardinals convenes to select a new pope in the most famous room in Rome: the Sistine Chapel. Tourists posing for photos in Piazza Navona may recall the battle between Langdon and the Hassassin in the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Langdon and Vittoria take their first wrong turn at the Pantheon. Brown skillfully weaves together the familiar and the mysterious into a thriller that transcends the centuries. Rome’s Angels & Demons: The Insider’s Guide to the Locations Featured in the Book and Movie embraces the mixture of fact and fiction that Brown delivers. Slipping between the world of conspiracies and the solidity of a travel guide, Rome’s Angels & Demons offers travelers a new perspective on the city. Biographical information about the book’s key historical figures—Raphael, Galileo, and Bernini—places them in a historical context, while practical tips afford the traveler an insider’s guide to the Eternal City. Maps and photographs help readers see the Ecstasy of St. Theresa and the hulking fortress of Castel Sant’Angelo. Used as an itinerary or as a companion to the novel, Rome’s Angels & Demons takes the reader into a world of intrigue and collusion. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 1
  5. 5. 1 Important Historical Figures in Angels & Demons Angels & Demons walks the tightrope between fiction and reality. Just as Dan Brown sets the events of the book in real places, he uses familiar historical figures as pillars, creating an air of “what if…” and “well, it could be…” The floor here was also marked with a pentagramal block. Langdon stared at the block, trembling, wondering if Bernini himself had held the chisel that had shaped these chunks. Overhead, the archway was adorned with a tiny carved cherub. This was it… He ascended into the total darkness, keeping one hand on the wall. Higher. In the blackness, Langdon sensed the ghost of Galileo, climbing these very stairs, eager to share his visions of heaven with other men of science and faith. (Chapter 107) In Brown’s universe, Bernini and Galileo helped found the Illuminati, a secret society where scientific exploration could be undertaken. But the reality of the lives of Bernini, Galileo, and Raphael is as extraordinary as any fiction, and all three left legacies in Rome that continue to inspire today. Galileo Galilei Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) was born in Pisa, the son of a musician. He was the first of six children in a family of modest means. Before his tenth birthday, Galileo moved to Florence with his family. As a young man, he considered entering the priesthood, but in 1581, he entered the University of Pisa instead. His father hoped he would become a doctor, but Galileo became fascinated with his study of physics—beginning with the movement of the pendulum. At university, Galileo studied the works of the ancient Greek scientist Aristotle. However, the student began to question Aristotle’s thinking, and set out to disprove his contention that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. Galileo’s penchant for Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 2
  6. 6. questioning and experimentation led to incredible innovations. He invented many mechanical devices, some of which he manufactured for sale, but his most significant invention was the telescope. Through his telescope, he achieved a 20x magnification, allowing him to study the moon and discover sunspots. He identified four satellites of Jupiter and observed a supernova. But his greatest achievement was his most controversial: He proved that the Earth revolves around the sun. of an ed at e stake. Galileo was not the first to assert this idea. Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, posed the theory in 1543. But the Copernican system was not popular with the Catholic Church, which preferred to assert that the Earth was the center the universe. The Inquisition, investigational arm of the Church designed to weed out heretics, declared that the Copernican system was a heresy. Scientists came under scrutiny for espousing the Copernican system. Some, including Giordano Bruno, were burn th Despite church warnings against discussing the Copernican system, Galileo published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, provoking the Vatican’s ire, and he was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition. He was formally threatened with torture and made to stand trial, at which he was sentenced to prison and to religious penance. He also was forced to recant and confess his errors at a formal ceremony held in the convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Having done so, Galileo was sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. The convent adjacent to Santa Maria sopra Minerva hosted Galileo's trial. Bernini created the elephant topped with an obelisk that stands outside the church. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 3
  7. 7. Angels & Demons depicts Galileo as a man pitted against the Catholic Church; the reality is more nuanced. Galileo was a devout Christian who struggled to reconcile his scientific findings with the politics of his time. In his later years, he wrote about the relationship between the scriptures and science, putting forth his belief that they both were sources of truth. Brown’s Diagramma della Verita may be a fiction, but while under house arrest, Galileo did continue to work and to publish his findings. Gradually he lost his sight, first in one eye and then in the other. But still he worked. Indeed, he invented the pendulum clock when he was completely blind. In September 1638, John Milton—the poet who ostensibly wrote the pivotal four lines of verse in Angels & Demons—visited Galileo at his home. While the casual visitor doesn’t have access to the Vatican Secret Archives, there are other places to find Galileo in Rome. Where to Find Galileo in Rome  Campo de’ Fiori: Public executions took place in this pleasant marketplace until the mid-1800s. The statue of Giordano Bruno in the middle of the square commemorates the life of the free-thinker who followed the teachings of Copernicus and was burned at the stake after a trial that lasted years.  Palazzo Firenze (Piazza Firenze, 27): During Galileo’s lifetime, this palazzo was the Florentine embassy, where Galileo spent much of his time when in Rome. Today it is the headquarters of the Dante Alighieri Society.  Santa Maria sopra Minerva: Galileo’s trial was held in the convent adjoining this church, which was built on the site of an ancient temple to Minerva. The Galileo Rooms are now part of the Biblioteca della Camera dei Deputati, but they are not open to the public at this time.  Villa Medici: Galileo stayed here several times, including following his trial when he was sentenced to house arrest. After a few days, however, the archbishop of Sienna intervened on his behalf, and Galileo was allowed to return to Tuscany. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 4
  8. 8. Raphael of Urbino From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole… Langdon chuckled to himself. He was amazed how few people knew Santi, the last name of one of the most famous Renaissance artists ever to live… “Santi,” Langdon said, “is the last name of the great Renaissance master, Raphael.” (Chapter 55) Raphaello Sanzio (1483–1520), the son of a painter, grew up in Urbino. As Langdon notes, he is also known as “Raphael Santi.” Raphael came to Rome to perfect his craft as an artist; he studied under his cousin, Bramante, and took over as architect of St. Peter’s Basilica after Bramante’s death. Raphael was known as a lovable and affable fellow with a penchant for the ladies. Indeed, on more than one occasion, his lust for women interfered with his work. Agostino Chigi was one of Raphael’s patrons, and he, too, shared Raphael’s amorous tendencies. When Chigi employed Raphael to create frescoes in his summer home, Villa Farnesina, Chigi provided the artist with living quarters at the villa because it was so close to the home of Raphael’s lover. In fact, the story goes, one day Raphael and his beloved were enjoying each others’ company when Michelangelo stopped by. The two were so engrossed in their passion that they did not notice Michelangelo, who picked up a brush and completed a figure in the fresco before leaving. Chigi also com- missioned Raphael’s work on the Chigi Raphael included a self-portrait in the School of Athens. Sporting a slouchy black hat, he peers directly at the viewer. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 5
  9. 9. Chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo—the First Altar of Science on the Path of Illumination. Raphael’s biographer, Vasari, attributes the artist’s death to a night of lovemaking that was “even more immoderate than usual.” He says that when Raphael returned home that night with a fever, the doctors misdiagnosed the cause, and they prescribed the wrong treatment, which killed him. Raphael had expressed his desire to be buried in the Pantheon (a first for an artist), and the grieving city of Rome honored that request. Langdon and Vittoria begin their quest for the Path of Illumination at the Pantheon. Rather, they attempt to begin. Where to Find Raphael in Rome  The Vatican Museums: Raphael is best known for a series of frescoes— the Raphael Stanze—he painted in the papal apartments between 1508 and 1511. He also designed a series of tapestries that run the circumference of the Sistine Chapel. The tapestries were stolen during the Sack of Rome in 1527 and were not returned until 1550.  Villa Farnesina: The palazzo where the artist was caught canoodling with his lover is now open to the public.  Palazzo Barberini: Here visitors can glimpse Raphael’s La Fornarina. The elegant nude in the painting is the daughter of the neighborhood baker— and Raphael’s lover. She wears an armband upon which is written “Raphael Urbinas.” Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 6
  10. 10. Gianlorenzo Bernini Vittoria moved closer. “I found out who the unknown Illuminati sculptor was.” Langdon’s head whipped around. “You what?” “Now we just need to figure out which sculpture in here is the—” “Wait a minute! You know who the Illuminati sculptor was?” He had spent years trying to find that information. Vittoria smiled. “It was Bernini.” She paused. “The Bernini.” (Chapter 69) Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) was the most successful Italian artist of the seventeenth century. The son of a sculptor, Bernini grew up in an environment celebrating artistic achievement. He was born in Naples, but his family moved to Rome around 1606. As a young man, Bernini learned architecture from the respected architect Maderno, with whom he worked on Piazza Barberini as well as St. Peter’s Basilica. Bernini also studied sculpture with his father. An affable character, Bernini had social graces that charmed Rome’s most powerful people. Rome’s elite—including eight successive popes—kept him employed for his entire life. Bernini’s gifts as a sculptor rival those of Michelangelo. Langdon and Vittoria race from church to church searching for a few of his sculptures: Habakkuk and the Angel, the Ecstasy of St. Theresa, and the fountains at Piazza Navona. Bernini was prolific, and he had a workshop full of employees who created according to his designs. Bernini lived in Rome most of his life, with the exception of a brief interlude in France (where he worked on the Louvre Palace). His fingerprints are all over the city—in sculpture and in architecture. He spent decades working on St. Peter’s, first as an apprentice and then as the primary architect. He contributed to St. Peter’s façade and designed Piazza San Pietro, and he helped organize and simplify the interior and designed several of the tombs inside the basilica. In addition to his work as an architect and sculptor, Bernini wrote plays and designed sets for the theater. “Bernini was the Vatican’s wonder boy. The church loved Bernini. He was elected the Vatican’s overall artistic authority. He practically lived inside Vatican City his entire life” (Chapter 69). When Langdon can’t believe Vittoria’s proposition that Bernini is “the unknown master,” he has good reason to be suspect. Bernini spent most of his life working for the papacy, and he had good relationships with the popes who employed him and rewarded him handsomely. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 7
  11. 11. When Bernini died in Rome in 1680, the entire city mourned. He is buried at Santa Maria Maggiore, and his family tomb slab is just outside that church’s Sistine Chapel (Rome’s less famous chapel by that name).  The Galleria Borghese: A building that Bernini designed holds several of his finest sculptures. His David is a self-portrait. In the Rape of Persephone and Apollo and Daphne, Bernini executes two tales from mythology with reverence and passion.Where to Find Bernini in Rome  Piazza di Spagna: Bernini’s father, Pietro, designed the small boat fountain at the foot of the Spanish Steps.  Piazza Barberini: Bernini designed the Fontana del Tritone (the Triton Fountain) for his patrons, the Barberini family. As seen from the lantern of Michelangelo’s dome, Bernini’s Piazza San Pietro is where thousands gather to keep vigil in Angels & Demons. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 8
  12. 12. Rome: Locations Featured in Angels & Demons Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 9
  13. 13. 2 The Vatican and the Holy See The imperial mountain of Vatican City rose before him as a dismal reminder of what men could accomplish when they put their minds to it. (Chapter 48) In common speech and writing, “the Vatican” is often used to name the Catholic Church, but technically that is a misnomer. The State of the Vatican City (Stato della Città del Vaticano) is the smallest sovereign country in the world. It occupies approximately 110 acres of land outside the historic walls of Rome and claims a population of fewer than 1,000 people. The State of the Vatican City is a country that governs the territory within the Vatican City. It is headed by a monarch with absolute authority: the pope. The Holy See, on the other hand, is not a place but the religious body of the Catholic Church. It too is governed by the pope. The Holy See was separated from the State of the Vatican City to solve a problem that arose after the unification of Italy. For a time it was unclear whether Italy controlled the land now known as Vatican City or whether the area was a distinct entity. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 established the sovereignty of Vatican City, but it also effectively separated the Holy See from the land itself so that should the city be occupied or destroyed, the Catholic Church could continue to function. Each pope's seal is different, combining elements from his family's heraldic crest with papal symbols. Every seal includes three images: two keys and the papal hat. The keys, one gold and one silver, represent keys Christ gave to St. Peter. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 10
  14. 14. The camerlengo looked sincerely sad. “You are misguided. A church is more than mortar and stone. You cannot simply erase two thousand years of faith… any faith. You cannot crush faith simply by removing its earthly manifestations. The Catholic Church will continue with or without Vatican City.” (Chapter 41) Vatican City and the Holy See are independent entities; the Holy See exists regardless of the existence of Vatican City. Thus, the Illuminati’s plan to destroy the Catholic Church includes the destruction of the material wealth of Vatican City as well as the four cardinals most likely to be elected as the next pope. A Word for Travelers Like Mecca, Jerusalem, or Qufu, Rome is a holy city. Many of the places in Angels & Demons are churches and sacred spaces. In fact, when making the film adaptation, the film crew was forced to re-create some locations because the Catholic Church denied it access, citing the holiness of those spots. Travelers tracing the events in the novel should be aware of this fact and behave in a respectful fashion. In many of Rome’s churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica, men and women must cover their shoulders. If you choose to wear a sleeveless shirt, tuck a t-shirt or a wrap into your bag and put it on before entering the building. Additionally, women are forbidden to enter many churches when wearing shorts or very short skirts. Dress comfortably but conservatively when planning to visit a holy place. Finally, remember that the church is a place for worship and prayer. Speak in hushed tones, hang on to your children, and should you arrive to find a worship service in progress, return at a later time to tour the building. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 11
  15. 15. Defending the Vatican: The Swiss Guard and Il Passetto When Langdon and Vittoria first encounter Olivetti and the Swiss Guard, they are frustrated and angry. Olivetti, a man who takes his job seriously, is rather inflexible: Through the glass, Langdon could see Olivetti say something to the guard. The sentinel nodded. As Olivetti strode out of the room, the guard spun and faced them on the other side of the glass, arms crossed, a large sidearm visible on his hip. (Chapter 36) Olivetti comes from a tradition of protective service that many international leaders envy. Each year on May 6 the guardians of the pope—the Swiss Guard—swear an oath of loyalty to the pontificate. The oath calls on each member of the guard—men of Swiss origin who have trained for their duties at a Swiss military school—to “faithfully, loyally, and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them… May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!” One by one, the young men grasp the standard of the Guard and raise their rights hands and pledge to “observe faithfully, loyally, and honorably all that has now been read out to me!” The men taking part in this sacred ritual join Although Michelangelo did not design the Swiss Guard's colorful uniforms, as Langdon says, they do have their origins in Renaissance fashion. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 12
  16. 16. the thousands who have served since 1506. Members of the guard are both ceremonial servants and a well-trained security force; Langdon is correct to admire and fear them. In 1506, Pope Julius II needed a guard he could trust. Roman politics were such that he could not assume that the Italians in his forces were always faithful to his cause. Julius II looked to the Helvetians, sometimes known as the Swiss Cantons, a people who made their living as mercenary soldiers. On January 22, 1506, a small band of Swiss Cantons passed through the Porta del Popolo and became the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Thus began the history of loyal duty to the Vatican. One date remains truly remarkable in the history of the Swiss Guard. On May 6, 1527, armed forces attacked Rome, pillaging the city and wreaking havoc in the streets. Now known as the Sack of Rome, the day was one of bloody atrocities as the Eternal City was brought to its knees. At the Vatican, 189 Swiss Guard stood firm, holding off the rampaging forces as long as they could and taking a stand around the obelisk in Piazza San Pietro. However, the invading forces were too strong. The Guard’s leader was hacked to death inside the basilica; when his wife rushed to hold her husband’s body, her hands were severed by the violent horde. But all was not lost. During the thirteenth century, a fortified corridor had been built between Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican Palace. Known as Il Passetto di Borgo, the corridor resembles a Roman aqueduct. It runs for 800 meters above the streets and through the neighborhood, providing a safe passage for the pope should he be forced to flee to safety. When Rome was sacked, Pope Clement VII did just that. Forty-two members of the Guard spirited him through the Passetto to Castel Sant’Angelo, where they held off the invaders. Twelve thousand Romans died that day. The contingent that secured the pontiff in Castel Sant’Angelo were the only members of the Guard to survive the Sack of Rome, and it is in their memory that the Guard takes its vows each year. Robert Langdon makes a common mistake when he attributes the Swiss Guard’s colorful uniform to Michelangelo’s design. While the fashion sensibility dates back to the Renaissance, the current uniforms owe more to Raphael than to Michelangelo. Raphael included members of the Swiss Guard in a painting he did of Pope Julius II. In the early twentieth century, the Guard’s uniforms were revised using Raphael’s images as a guide. The colors—blue, red, and yellow—are the colors of the Medici family. And oak leaves Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 13
  17. 17. appear on the metalwork—the symbol of Pope Julius II’s family. The Office of the Swiss Guard. Langdon stood in the doorway, surveying the collision of centuries before them. Mixed media. The room was a lushly adorned Renaissance library complete with inlaid bookshelves, oriental carpets, and colorful tapestries … and yet the room bristled with high-tech gear— banks of computers, faxes, electronic maps of the Vatican complex, and televisions tuned to CNN. (Chapter 30) However ancient their uniforms may appear, the Swiss Guard are indeed a modern security team. The 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II reinforced the need for the Swiss Guard to be more than just a ceremonial establishment. Their training and security measures continue to change with the times. Where to See the Swiss Guard Guards in uniform are stationed at various places in Vatican City. They are most commonly seen at the Scala Regina, Bernini’s staircase on the north side of St. Peter’s Basilica. To reach the Scala Regina, pass through the security screening on the north side of Piazza San Pietro. The staircase will be to your right as you approach the basilica. If you plan a trip to the Scavi, the Swiss Guard will check your reservation and escort you past the security checkpoint to the Scavi offices. Photographs are permitted of the Swiss Guard, but visitors are reminded that the guard is a working security force. Where to See Il Passetto di Borgo Il Passetto di Borgo runs just north of Via della Conciliazione along what is now Via dei Corridori. It is made of stone, with arches similar in style to an ancient aqueduct. No one is allowed inside Il Passetto, but Castel Sant’Angelo affords some of the best views of the corridor, and the entrance to Il Passetto is sometimes open from the museum at Castel Sant’Angelo. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 14
  18. 18. St. Peter’s Basilica The main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica, Lieutenant Chartrand had once figured out, was longer than an Olympic soccer field. Tonight, however, it felt like twice that… Somewhere up ahead, beyond the reach of the BBC spotlight, the camerlengo’s voice rang out joyously. “Upon this rock I will build my church!” (Chapter 118) Until the fourth century AD, Roman Christians worshipped in private, gathering together in homes. However, under Emperor Constantine (306–37 AD), the political climate in Rome changed. Constantine converted to Christianity, and he built the three grand Christian churches in the city: San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter’s), and San Paolo fuori le Mura. f pes lius II St. Peter’s Basilica was not the most important church in early Christian Rome. That honor fell to San Giovanni in Laterano, which was (and still is) the seat o the pope in Rome. In fact, until the Renaissance, the po lived at San Giovanni in Laterano. By the time Pope Julius II was elected in 1503, the papacy had moved to the Vatican, and Ju sought to create a monumental church that would be a symbol of the As the action heats up, Langdon must decide if he will attempt to save St. Peter’s Basilica from certain destruction, risking his own life. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 15
  19. 19. t. n a rounding a entral piazza. hurch r s e shape the uilding into his own design. n many ich a ore ighteningly, might have collapsed. rk . tastes and assions of the Baroque era. thin e es. the opolis ), which must be power of Christianity in the world. The old St. Peter’s was a basilican-style church, built around the tomb of St. Peter. When the old S Peter’s Basilica was built, the land at the Vatican was swampy, beyond the protection of Rome’s city walls, and exposed. But the area around the church grew up over time until the old St. Peter’s was much more tha church. It was a village with housing, barracks, homes, and shops sur c Julius II hired Donato Bramante, Rome’s preeminent architect, to design a new c for the Vatican. Nicknamed “Maestro Ruinate” (the Master of Ruins), Bramante proceeded to demolish the old St. Peter’ Basilica, a church that was more than a thousand years old. Over the next forty years, a procession of architects worked on the new St. Peter’s Basilica, each deviating from th original plans and attempting to b In 1546, Pope Paul III hired Michelangelo Buonarroti to put the construction project on the right course. Michelangelo stripped dow the building—removing much of what had been built previously—and returned to of Bramante’s original ideas. He also designed the dome over St. Peter’s, wh was modeled after the domes over the Pantheon in Rome and Santa Maria della Fiore in Florence. Scholars disagree about how much influence Michelangelo had on the floor plans of St. Peter’s in the end. He died century before the building was completed. However, without his guidance, the church might never have been finished and, m fr Today, St. Peter’s Basilica reflects the wo and passion of dozens of architects, each leaving an indelible mark on Christianity’s largest house of worship. The church covers 5.7 acres and can hold 60,000 worshippers The interior reflects the ornate p For those on an Angels & Demons quest, Bernini’s work is found in many places wi St. Peter’s, from the baldacchino over th altar to several of the tombs within the building. When Vittoria and the camerlengo disappear to examine the recently deceased pope’s body, they descend into the grotto Located beneath the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica, the grottoes are the resting place of many popes. There are often long lines as faithful wait to pay homage at (and take photographs of) the tomb of John Paul II. Additionally, consider a visit to the necr excavations (the Scavi arranged in advance. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 16
  20. 20. ighlights of St. Peter’s Basilica he as as one of Rome’s finest sculptors. descends as if he f e ieces ation is unclear—though unlikely. from the Pantheon and melted down. the ith a onica) are by Bernini’s students. of H  Pieta: Michelangelo’s Pieta occupies one of the small chapels just inside t basilica’s front doors. This famous work, completed when the artist w twenty-four years old, cemented Michelangelo’s reputation  The Confessio and the Niche of the Palliums: When the camerlengo races off to find the antimatter, he the staircase in front of the baldacchino, lit by lamps that surround the opening. It looks is headed for the Niche of the Palliums. “What is he doing? Langdon wondered. Certainly he can’t think the golden box…” (Chapter 118). But o course the camerlengo knows what Langdon knows as well: The box in the Niche does not actually contain th remains of St. Peter. The gold coffer in the Niche holds “palliums”—p of fabric made from the wool of blessed sheep, which serve as a reminder of the church’s unity throughout the world. The lamps surrounding the Confessio are never extinguished—they are a symbol of the eternal nature of God’s love and Jesus’s role as “the light of the world.” Whether the lamps hold a fuel potent enough to support the camerlengo’s self-immol  Baldacchino: As work on the basilica neared completion, Pope Urban VIII commissioned Bernini to create the baldacchino—or canopy—for the altar. It is nearly 100 feet tall and is made of 1,000 tons of bronze taken  Pier of St. Longinus: Bernini sculpted one of the four saints depicted at the Great Crossing by main altar. St. Longinus was the soldier who pierced Jesus’s side w spear when he was crucified. The other three statues (St. Helena, St. Andrew, and St. Ver  Cathedra Petri: The elaborate window featuring a dove and the surrounding gilded statuary center upon a chair: the throne of St. Peter, the first pope. Bernini designed this Baroque reliquary as a statement the power of the papacy and its ancient lineage. Don’t be fooled, Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 17
  21. 21. inside the gold chair Bernini created. b e southwest corner of the basilica. ’s of esigned in the seventeenth century. isiting St. Peter’s Basilica asilica di an Pietro, St. Peter’s Basilica. cavi. No bare knees or shoulders for men or ost: Basilica and Grottoes: free; Treasury: arch, 9am–6pm, aily; April–September, 9am–7pm, daily. rottoes: 8am–5pm, daily. le ica, he ty and Rome. fact, Michelangelo’s dome is often referred Hours: October–March, 8am–5pm, daily; April–September, 8am–6pm, daily. though! The gold chair is not actually St. Peter’s chair. That 2,000 year-old chair is now in fragments that reside  Tombs of Urban VIII and Alexander VII: Both these dramatic tombs were designed by Bernini and use elements such as skeletons and voluminous stone drapery. The tom of Urban VIII is to the right of th Cathedra Petri, and the tomb of Alexander VII is in the  The Dome: The dome over St. Peter was designed by Michelangelo and was the greatest engineering feat the Renaissance. The interior is covered in mosaics and gold d by Cavaliere d’Arpino V Names: San Pietro in Vaticano, B S Notes: Active as a Catholic church. Photo- graphy is permitted except on the tour of the S for women. C €4. Hours: Basilica: October–M d G Visiting Michelangelo’s Dome For a modest fee, visitors can take an elevator or climb the stairs to the drum of Michelangelo’s dome. From here it is possib to look down into the basilica over the main altar and to explore the roof of the basil where there is a small café and store. On the roof level, the scale of Bernini’s saints becomes clear. For visitors who can make t climb, the trek up 320 steps to the dome’s lantern is worth the effort. The staircase is small and tightly enclosed, but the top offers unsurpassed views of Vatican Ci In to as “the eighth hill in Rome.” Cost: Stairs to the dome: €4; elevator: €5. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 18
  22. 22. The Sistine Chapel He could see the great bronze door of the Sistine Chapel now, dutifully protected by four Swiss Guards. The guards unbolted the door and pulled it open. Inside, every head turned. The camerlengo gazed out at the black robes and red sashes before him. He understood what God’s plans for him were. The fate of the church had been placed in his hands. The camerlengo crossed himself and stepped over the threshold. (Chapter 47) The Sistine Chapel was built in the late 1400s by Pope Sixtus IV as a replacement for the medieval Capella Magna, which was considered dark, damp, and gloomy. The chapel was built to host the Vatican’s papal conclave, during which the College of Cardinals elects the new pope in secrecy. After a pope dies, the College of Cardinals meets in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope. The cardinals, the highest-level appointees within the church, are forbidden contact with the outside world during the conclave; the punishment for breaking the vow of secrecy that they take at the beginning of the meeting is excommunication. Very little is known about how a conclave works. We do know a few things, however: Each cardinal receives a ballot upon which he writes the name of his candidate. The ballots are collected at the altar of the chapel in a chalice. They are tallied and burned after each vote. When there is no agreement, the ballots are mixed with straw to create black smoke; when the vote is unanimous, the smoke is white to indicate that a pope has been elected. As the Illuminati are well aware, the Catholic Church is at its most vulnerable when its leadership is all together in the same room— like at a papal conclave. Thus, the chapel’s architects constructed a bastion of strength and security. It boasts slits for archers’ bows, windows only at the ceiling, and secret openings from which boiling oil might be poured onto attackers. As befits its grand purpose, the chapel was decorated by the greatest masters of the day. Upon its completion in 1480, Lorenzo de’ Medici sent a group of Florentine artists to Rome to fresco the walls: Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Roselli, Luca Signorelli, and Domenico Ghirlandaio (Michelangelo’s future teacher). The vaulted ceiling was frescoed by Piermatteo d’Amelia Roaring Forties Press 19
  23. 23. in a brilliant blue dotted with gold stars, representing the vast expanse of the heavens. The scheme for the Sistine Chapel was intended to remind the cardinals that their work was important and not political but spiritual. The artists divided the walls from the ceiling to the floor:  The vault is frescoed in blue with gold stars—an expensive and dramatic look.  Ancient popes remind the conclave of the historic and spiritual nature of their electoral task.  Scenes depict the life of Moses, the most important figure in the Old Testament.  Scenes depict the life of Jesus, the most important figure in the New Testament. Each event from Moses’s life is paired with one from Jesus’s life, illustrating the parallels between their stories. This scheme also draws connections between the Old and the New Testaments. It was evident by 1500 that the roof of the Sistine Chapel leaked. When Pope Julius II was elected in 1503, he was eager to fix the problem. The starry vault painted on the ceiling had sustained serious damage, and a crack patched with bricks and plaster ran through the sky. Julius II chose Michelangelo to repaint the ceiling. Reluctantly, Michelangelo agreed. He considered himself a sculptor, not a painter, but he could not refuse the pope. Michelangelo chose to depict the history of God and man working together, and produced a scheme consisting of several interrelated components:  Scenes from Genesis: Down the center of the vault, Michelangelo painted scenes starting with Noah and working backward chronologically to Creation.  Prophets and Sibyls: Sitting on thrones set into the monumental trompe l’oeil architecture are the prophets and sibyls who predicted the coming of Christ.  The Human Family: Above the windows in triangular frames are scenes of families: mothers, fathers, and children.  The Ancestors of Jesus: The lunettes above the windows (where Roaring Forties Press 20
  24. 24. Michelangelo’s work merges into the frescoes by other Florentine artists) are filled with the ancestors of Jesus, establishing the lineage that runs from Moses to Christ.  Scenes of Victory: In corner of the room, spandrels tell stories of the victory of the Jewish people over peril.  Other elements: Dramatic architectural elements divide the space into regular geometric spans. Michelangelo painted the ceiling in two halves, erecting a scaffold that covered one half of the floor at a time. When in 1511 he took down the scaffolding after finishing the first half of the ceiling, Michelangelo could finally see the work from afar. Viewed from the floor, the figures in the Flood disappear into the crowded scenes and the ancestors of Christ bunch together, but the prophets are strikingly powerful. With this in mind, Michelangelo decided that the second half of the ceiling would feature fewer figures in each scene and that, like the prophets in the first half, those figures would be larger and the intensity of their actions would be more pronounced. On October 31, 1512, the chapel’s doors were opened. Michelangelo’s work created an immediate sensation in the city and beyond. The Last Judgment Twenty-three years after finishing his work on the ceiling, Michelangelo was back in the Sistine Chapel, this time to paint the Last Judgment on the altar wall. Michelangelo filled his depiction with nudes, an act that would bring him criticism for the remainder of his life. Michelangelo believed that physical beauty reflects spiritual and moral beauty, and he distinguished between artificial and physical beauty. No clothes—no matter how grand—could disguise a sinful soul. But attitudes about art had changed since Michelangelo had completed the chapel’s ceiling. Nudity, once considered beautiful, was now deemed indecent. Whereas people had marveled at Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling (the nude figure of Adam had been acclaimed as a triumph), the Last Judgment garnered mixed reviews primarily because most of the figures in it were nude. Calls to censor or destroy the Sistine Chapel’s nudes plagued the artist. After Michelangelo’s death, several popes appointed painters to Roaring Forties Press 21
  25. 25. alter the nudes in the Last Judgment, though over time the fresco suffered even more from smoke damage and neglect. Be sure to look for Minos, the Judge of Souls, just above the door—he has the ears of a jackass and a snake attached to his penis. Michelangelo gave him the face of the papal Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, who complained heartily about the nudity of Michelangelo’s figures. Michelangelo portrayed himself in the Last Judgment as well. The flayed skin in St. Bartholomew’s hand bears Michelangelo’s face—and St. Bartholomew wears the countenance of one of Michelangelo’s critics-turned-blackmailer. Today the Sistine Chapel is the centerpiece of the Vatican Museums, a vast and sometimes confusing collection of art ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern religious icons. Visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums Names: Musei Vaticani, the Vatican Museums. Notes: At certain times of the year, lines for the Vatican Museums can be very long. Tickets can be purchased in advance online: Arrive early! Photography is permitted except in the Sistine Chapel and a few other places. No bare knees or shoulders for men or for women. Cost: €10 (tickets purchased online are assessed an additional fee). There is no admission charge on the last Sunday of each month. Hours: Monday–Saturday, 9am–4pm. The Vatican Museums close on specific holidays and most Sundays. Consult the Museums’ website when planning a trip: Roaring Forties Press 22
  26. 26. The Scavi and St. Peter When the camerlengo figures out where the antimatter has been hidden, he rushes off in search of St. Peter’s tomb. The location of St. Peter’s final resting place has been debated for centuries. The Gospels do not refer to Peter’s journey to Rome or to his death. However, Rome has laid claim to St. Peter’s remains since the first century A.D., and the Catholic Church regards him as the first pope. In the Gospels, Jesus declares, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”— words that appear on the drum of Michelangelo’s dome. Tradition has it that Peter died at the hands of Nero in a massacre of Christians that took place in the circus, a venue for races and sporting events. The Christians, a new religious group in Rome, made a convenient scapegoat for the fire that destroyed much of Rome in 64 A.D. Peter was buried in a necropolis near the circus. When Constantine built the first St. Peter’s, he filled in the necropolis to create a solid foundation for his new basilica. That church, in turn, was demolished to make way for the new St. Peter’s during the Renaissance. Pope Pius XII, hoping to identify Peter’s remains, authorized excavations underneath the altar in St. Peter’s. The excavations took ten years and were conducted entirely in secret. In 1951, the archaeologists announced their findings: They had found St. Peter’s tomb. Because they had not used standard archaeological practices, however, their findings were largely dismissed by the scientific community, and the archaeologists themselves descended into a bitter feud that further clouded their assertions. The altar of the new St. Peter’s Basilica with its soaring dome was built over the spot where the old St. Peter’s altar had been. That altar was supposedly built over the tomb of Peter, the rock. To destroy the church from its very heart, the Illuminati plan to strike at its Roaring Forties Press 23
  27. 27. core: the physical and symbolic center of the Christian church on Earth. Visiting the Scavi Names: The Scavi, the Vatican Necropolis, Necropoli sotto la Basilica Vaticana Notes: Arrangements to visit the Scavi must be made several weeks or months in advance. Send an email with your request to or or fax 06 69873017. Include the following information: number of participants; name of each participant; language for the tour; days you would be available to take the tour (which lasts approximately one hour, but allow time to get to and from the Ufficio Scavi) and contact information (email address or fax number). If you are granted a tour, you will receive a confirmation email or fax to which you must reply with your payment method. Tours are generally conducted by seminarians and can be arranged in multiple languages. Photography is not permitted on the tour of the Scavi. No bare knees or shoulders for men or for women. Cost: €10 per person. Hours: By appointment only. Roaring Forties Press 24
  28. 28. The Vatican Secret Archives There is a reason the Vatican Secret Archives are so named. This repository of valuable documents is kept under lock and key and is accessible only with special permission. The archives house some of the western world’s most valuable and obscure documents, largely pertaining to the history of the Catholic Church. Documents in the collection include Henry VIII’s letter requesting an annulment of his marriage to Queen Catherine, files recording the payment arrangements for Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, and yes, as Angels & Demons contends, records of the trial of Galileo. The files in the archives have been used to further political goals for hundreds of years. Napoleon removed the entire contents of the archives in 1810 and took them to Paris. This was neither the first nor the last time the documents were pawns in a political struggle. Each time the archives have been removed, something has gone missing. According to the Vatican, the oldest document in the Secret Archives dates to the eight century. The archives reportedly contain all kinds of files related to the administration of the Catholic Church—from financial records to historical items like the files on Galileo’s trial. Material related to a specific pope are not released to the archives until seventy-five years after the death of that pope. That Langdon and Vittoria are given unfettered access to the archives is extraordinary—and highly unlikely. Thankfully, what they needed could be found in the Vatican Secret Archives, for there is another archive even more secret in the Vatican. The records of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which contain documentation of excommunications, confessor disputes, and other sensitive internal matters within the church, are never made public. Visiting the Vatican Secret Archives Names: Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum, the Vatican Secret Apostolic Archives. Notes: Access to the Vatican Secret Archives requires a formal written request. Browsing is not permitted. The request must be made for a specific document on a specific topic—the person making the request must know that the document exists. Only scholars are allowed to Roaring Forties Press 25
  29. 29. use the archives, and the application process requires letters of introduction, copies of academic credentials … in other words: Only a select few ever gain admittance. That said, the process for admission is not so different than for other archives. Many archives restrict access to scholars simply to protect the documents contained from wear and tear. However, the Vatican Secret Archives has a reputation for being particularly picky in its approval process—a process dictated by the Archivist and Librarian Cardinal. Some archivists exercise tighter controls than others. According to published Vatican reports, 1,000–1,500 scholars per year have been admitted during the most recent administrations, which is remarkable considering the Secret Archives were closed to all but the pontiff and the College of Cardinals until 1881. For a glimpse into the Vatican Secret Archives collections, visit The website features images and downloads of several historic documents, including documents pertaining to the trial of Galileo. Roaring Forties Press 26
  30. 30. 3 The Path of Illumination According to legend, the Illuminati is a secret society devoted to science and persecuted by the Catholic Church. In Angels & Demons, the Illuminati have emerged from the shadows of history with a threat: They plan to assassinate four Catholic cardinals and destroy Vatican City within the span of a few hours. To find the madmen responsible for this menace, Langdon and Vittoria must discover the Path of Illumination—a path that has eluded seekers for centuries and that leads to the Illuminati’s hidden lair. Langdon explains: Galileo’s Illuminati needed to protect themselves from the Vatican, so they founded an ultrasecret Illuminati meeting place here in Rome. They called it The Church of Illumination. (Chapter 46) Langdon and Vittoria’s only clue to guide them on the path is a riddle they must untangle. Deep in the stacks of the Vatican Secret Archives, Langdon and Vittoria find a “lost” manuscript by Galileo; in its margins are penned four lines in English script—lines attributed to John Milton. From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole, ‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold. The path of light is laid, the sacred test, Let angels guide you on your lofty quest. (Chapter 55) If Langdon and Vittoria can find four hidden markers on the Path of Illumination— representing the mystic elements Earth, Air, Fire, and Water—they might be able to stop the cardinals’ assassinations and save the church from catastrophe. Roaring Forties Press 27
  31. 31. Egyptian Obelisks in Rome The piazza seemed subtly filled with Illuminati significance. Not only was it laid out in a perfectly elliptical shape, but dead center stood a towering Egyptian obelisk—a square pillar of stone with a distinctively pyramidal shape. (Chapter 64) The Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC after Augustus defeated famous lovers Antony, a Roman, and Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, in battle. The Romans admired Egyptian arts and architecture, and they brought back trophies of their conquests that they displayed prominently in Rome. Consequently, Rome has the finest collection of Egyptian obelisks in the world—twelve dot the Roman landscape. The Egyptians created obelisks as solar symbols—sundials with shadows that trace the passage of the days and seasons across large open areas. But obelisks also commemorated victories, anniversaries, and moments when the gods favored the pharaohs. Most are carved with hieroglyphics telling of the pharaohs and their conquests. Rome’s Obelisks  Piazza del Quirinale  Piazza dell’Esquilino (behind Santa Maria Maggiore)  Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano (the tallest obelisk in Rome)  Piazzale Bucarest (on the Pincian Hill)  Piazza della Trinita dei Monti (at the top of the Spanish Steps)  Piazza della Rotonda* (in front of the Pantheon)  Villa Celimontana  Piazza San Pietro* (the center point for Bernini’s piazza design)  Piazza del Popolo*  Piazza dei Santa Maria sopra Minerva (set upon the carved elephant by Bernini in 1667)  Piazza Navona* (used by Bernini in the Fountain of the Four Rivers)  Piazza di Termini  Piazza di Montecitorio *Featured in Angels & Demons Brown links the four Altars of Science using Rome’s obelisks as markers. But contrary to the author’s assertion, there has never been an obelisk in Piazza Barberini. The obelisk now in Piazzale Bucarest was once in a private Roaring Forties Press 28
  32. 32. garden near Piazza Barberini, but Langdon is incorrect in thinking, “In Bernini’s day… Piazza Barberini had contained an obelisk” (Chapter 88). In 1937, Mussolini took the Azum Obelisk from Ethiopia and moved it to Rome as a sign of his conquest. In 2005, the obelisk was returned to Ethiopia and re-erected in its original position. An Obelisk Returned The obelisk at Piazza Navona features remarkable hieroglyphics and is topped with a dove that points Langdon toward Castel Sant'Angelo. Roaring Forties Press 29
  33. 33. A False Start: The Pantheon Faced with a ticking clock and an odd riddle, Langdon and Vittoria sit down to puzzle out the meaning of their only clue, the four lines by Milton. When Langdon attributes “Santi’s earthly tomb” to Raphael, he is half-right. He and Vittoria dart across town with the Swiss Guard backing them. They arrive at the Pantheon to await the killer. Officially, the Pantheon is known as Santa Maria Rotunda or Santa Maria ad Martyres, but the consecrated Christian church is better known by its pagan name. The site where the Pantheon sits has been considered sacred since at least 25 BC. The current building is the third known temple to be constructed there; it was built by Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. The structure was consecrated as a Christian church in 609 AD by Pope Boniface IV after it was stripped of pagan artwork, including bronze figures in the pediment over the porch and a sculpture of Julius Caesar. The fact that the Pantheon became a Christian church assured its continued existence, but at a price. The roof was once covered in gilded bronze tiles that reflected the sun; the original doors were plated in gold, as were many of the sculptures representing the gods that were once inside. In search of building materials, Renaissance and Baroque Romans often reused elements from ancient buildings, and they eventually stripped the Pantheon of most of its spectacular decorations. So, for example, when Bernini needed bronze to create the baldacchino in St. Peter’s, he took the bronze from the Pantheon’s porch roof—more than 200 tons of it. Langdon and Vittoria begin their quest in the Pantheon. Raphael was buried in the Pantheon. However, his body was not, as Brown asserts, moved there later; his body was buried in the Pantheon immediately after his death in 1520. The placement of his tomb was an honor for Rome’s favorite artist. Unlike many of Roaring Forties Press 30
  34. 34. Rome’s churches, the Pantheon has few memorials. Langdon’s assumption that the poet’s “demon’s hole” might refer to the Pantheon’s oculus is natural. The oculus (a circular hole in the roof) connected the world of the gods with the human world. But Milton and Bernini would not have considered the oculus a demon’s hole. Rather, men and women of their generation were awed by the dome that spans the Pantheon—an architectural marvel not surpassed for nearly two millennia. As Langdon and Vittoria wait in vain for the assassin to arrive, Langdon realizes that he has made a mistake. “Santi designed the tomb,” Langdon said. Vittoria turned. “What?” “It’s not a reference to where Raphael is buried, it’s referring to a tomb he designed…” (Chapter 62) Visiting the Pantheon Names: The Pantheon, Santa Maria ad Martyres, Santa Maria Rotunda. Notes: Activeas a Catholic church. Cost: Free Hours: Monday– Saturday, 8:30am– 7:30pm; Sunday, 9am– 6pm; closed Christmas Day, New Year's Day, May 1. Langdon and Vittoria initially assume that the "devil's hole" refers to the Pantheon's oculus. Roaring Forties Press 31
  35. 35. Earth: Santa Maria del Popolo When Langdon and Vittoria realize that they are in the wrong place, they sprint to Piazza del Popolo searching for the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. At the center of the piazza sits the Obelisk of Ramses II. Originally raised in Heliopolis, the obelisk was brought to Rome by Augustus in 30 BC and placed in the center of the Circus Maximus, where it was dedicated to the sun. In 1589, the obelisk was moved to Piazza del Popolo and topped with the symbols of Sixtus V: mountains and a star. The church that Langdon and Vittoria seek is one of three churches on the piazza. But don’t trust Brown’s description. Santa Maria del Popolo is far from gloomy. Santa Maria del Popolo was constructed in 1099, after locals complained that the site was haunted by the ghost of Emperor Nero. It has been reconstructed several times since, giving many artists and architects, including Bramante, Pinturicchio, and Raphael, a chance to refine their craft. Agostino Chigi, a wealthy Sienese banker and notorious playboy, commissioned Raphael to decorate the Chigi Chapel in 1513. Raphael worked on the chapel intermittently until his death in 1520—the same year that Chigi died. Construction on the chapel stalled until Bernini was hired by Chigi’s descendants to finish it in 1652. Raphael and Bernini both used rich materials—marbles, granite, bronze, and mosaics—as a reflection of their patrons’ wealth and power. Overhead, the domed cupola shone with a field of illuminated stars and the seven astronomical planets. Below that the twelve signs of the zodiac—pagan, earthly symbols rooted in astronomy. The zodiac was also tied directly to Earth, Air, Fire, Water … the quadrants representing power, intellect, ardor, emotion. Earth is for power, Langdon recalled. Farther down the wall, Langdon saw tributes to the Earth’s four temporal seasons—primavera, estate, autunno, invérno. But far more incredible than any of this were the two huge structures dominating the room. Langdon stared at them in silent wonder. It can’t be, he thought. It just can’t be! But it was. On either side of the chapel, in perfect symmetry, were two ten-foot-high marble pyramids. (Chapter 65) Bernini’s pyramidal decorations are unusual, but they are not unique. Indeed, there is an Roaring Forties Press 32
  36. 36. ancient pyramid within Rome—the Pyramid of Cestius, built in 12 BC, which stands near the Porta San Paolo. : Free. In addition to the decorative motif in the chapel, Bernini contributed two sculptures: Daniel and Habakkuk and the Angel. They tell two parts of the same story. Daniel, a prophet, is imprisoned in a lions’ den for his religious beliefs. He is hungry and prays to God for protection and sustenance. Habakkuk, a prophet hundreds of miles away, is taken by an angel to share a meal with Daniel. Bernini depicts the angel grabbing Habakkuk by the hair for their journey while—across the chapel—Daniel prays as a hungry lion licks his foot. Langdon and Vittoria don’t pay much attention to the sculptures at first. But after descending through the devil’s hole in the floor of the chapel to discover that they are too late to save the cardinal, they set off, following the angel’s outstretched finger. Other Highlights In the Cerasi Chapel (also within Santa Maria del Popolo) are two famous paintings by Caravaggio: the Crucifixion of St. Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul. The Crucifixion depicts the same Peter for whom St. Peter’s Basilica is named and whose remains may or may not lie beneath the altar at the basilica. Visiting Santa Maria del Popolo Names: Santa Maria del Popolo (on Piazza del Popolo). Notes: Active as a Catholic church. In Angels & Demons, the pyramids in the Chigi Chapel signify that it is the First Altar of Science. Cost Hours: Monday–Saturday, 7am–noon and 4– 7pm; Sunday, 7:30am–1:30pm and 4:30– 7:30pm. Roaring Forties Press 33
  37. 37. Air: Piazza San Pietro “That tile you’re talking about in St. Peter’s Square is called the West Ponente— the West Wind. It’s also known as Respiro di Dio.” “Breath of God?” “Yes! Air! And it was carved and put there by the original architect.” (Chapter 72) As Vittoria and Langdon cross the city in search of their next clue, their destination is one of the world’s most iconic sites: St. Peter’s Piazza. Construction of St. Peter’s Basilica and its surrounds began in the early 1500s and continued for nearly 200 years as architects and popes continually refined the design. When the basilica was nearly finished in the 1600s, the piazza before it was small, cramped, and unimpressive. The basilica was intended to be the central church in Christendom, and it needed an entrance that was equally grand. Bernini worked on the basilica first as an apprentice and then as an architect. He turned his attention to the basilica’s approach, calling upon his experience as a theatrical designer to create the stage for the world’s grandest religious pageantry. His goal was to emphasize the basilica’s size and to organize the space so that the Vatican would be an impressive stage for papal events. He lined the roofs of the basilica and the colonnade with hundreds of larger-than-life-sized figures of saints and martyrs: an audience for the events below. Bernini shaped the piazza space using a grand ellipse and surrounded it with a covered walkway supported by columns—the colonnade. The colonnade had to be low enough that the pope could make addresses from his traditional location: the balcony off the papal apartments. But it also had to be massive so that, in Bernini’s words, it could “reach out with open arms to embrace Catholics to reaffirm their belief, heretics to reunite them with the church, and agnostics to enlighten them with the true faith.” Bernini constructed nearly 300 columns around the piazza. On each side of the piazza is a “sweet spot.” When you stand in that particular spot (marked in stone on the ground), the columns line up in perfect visual symmetry. The obelisk in Piazza San Pietro was brought to Rome from Egypt by the emperor Caligula in 36 AD. He raised it as the centerpiece of the circus (race track) that occupied what is Roaring Forties Press 34
  38. 38. now the Vatican. Supposedly, St. Peter died very near the obelisk when he was executed in the circus. The obelisk weighs 350 tons and was moved to its present location in 1586 by Pope Sixtus V—a task that took four months and intensive engineering skills. Carlo Maderno built one of the fountains on the piazza, and Bernini built the other— creating balance and symmetry. The obelisk is one of the world’s largest sundials, and among the stones on the ground bearing the signs of the zodiac, Langdon and Vittoria find what they seek. The relief was elliptical, about three feet long, and carved with a rudimentary face—a depiction of the West Wind as an angel-like countenance. Gusting from the angel’s mouth, Bernini had drawn a powerful breath of air blowing outward away from the Vatican … the breath of God. This was Bernini’s tribute to the second element … Air … an ethereal zephyr blown from angel’s lips. (Chapter 74) Vittoria and Langdon fail to save the cardinal, but they follow the West Ponente on to their next destination. The West Ponente is one in a series of markers that mark North, South, East, and West on Piazza San Pietro. Visiting Piazza San Pietro Names: Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square) Notes: Active as a Catholic church Cost: Free Hours: The piazza is open all day and evening unless an official Vatican event is taking place. Roaring Forties Press 35
  39. 39. Fire: Santa Maria della Vittoria Santa Maria della Vittoria was designed by the architect Carlo Maderno. Maderno was the father of Baroque architecture, a style that predominated in Rome in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. But Santa Maria della Vittoria isn’t just famous for its architecture. Like Vittoria and Langdon, visitors flock to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini’s depiction of St. Theresa in the throes of divine revelation. But whereas the Hassassin chooses to build a bonfire in the church, the fire Bernini built is of another kind. As a young woman, Theresa of Avila was sent to a convent because she turned to rebellious behavior after her mother’s death. In the mid-1540s, she began having visions that she interpreted as reprimands for the comfortable existence at her convent. She described the incidents as “a transport so sudden that it almost carried me away” and became convinced that they were, in fact, divine inspiration. One day in 1560, an angel appeared to her. She wrote, “In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it reached to my entrails. When he drew it out I thought he was drawing them out with it, and he left me completely afire with a great love of God.” Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa marks the third Altar of Science. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 36
  40. 40. Bernini chose St. Theresa as his subject soon after she was canonized. The Ecstasy of St. Theresa depicts the angel poised to pierce Theresa with the fire-tipped arrow. In later years, the sensuality of Bernini’s work inspired controversy. Although St. Theresa is fully clothed, her state of ecstasy looks much like the throes of sexual passion. Langdon was not entirely convinced until he glanced up at the sketch again. The angel’s fiery spear was raised like a beacon, pointing the way. Let angels guide you on your lofty quest. Even the type of angel Bernini had selected seemed significant. It’s a seraphim, Langdon realized. Seraphim literally means “the fiery one.” (Chapter 84) Bernini also designed the Cappella Cornaro (Cornaro Chapel) where the Ecstasy of St. Theresa reigns. The chapel is designed to look like a theater; members of the Cornaro family sculpted in marble watch the action from boxes on both sides of the chapel. Langdon and Vittoria don’t have time to admire Bernini’s artistry as they fight for their lives. Visitors are sometimes disappointed to find that the church’s sarcophagi are mounted to the walls; Langdon could not have been trapped underneath one. But there was once a fire in the church—in 1833, the church nearly burned to the ground. Visiting Santa Maria della Vittoria Name: Santa Maria della Vittoria (on Via 20 Settembre). Notes: Active as a Catholic church. Dan Brown incorrectly places Santa Maria della Vittoria on Piazza Barberini. It is on Via 20 Settembre where it intersects with Via Barberini, just across the street from the Fontana dell’Acqua Felice. Cost: Free. Hours: Monday–Saturday, 9am–noon and 3– 6pm; Sunday, 3–6pm. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 37
  41. 41. Water: Piazza Navona poetic in clue. ‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold! It was cunning wordplay. Langdon had originally read the word ‘Cross as an abbreviation of Across. He assumed it was license intended to reta the meter of the poem. But it was so much more than that! Another hidden The cruciform on the map, Langdon realized, was the ultimate Illuminati duality. It was a religious symbol formed by elements of science. Galileo’s path of Illumination was a tribute to both science and God! The rest of the puzzle fell into place almost immediately. Piazza Navona. (Chapter 100) From Santa Maria della Vittoria, Langdon makes his way to Piazza Navona, Rome’s most famous piazza. Piazza Navona has been a gathering place for millennia. During the Roman Empire, a stadium was built on the site; the Stadium of Domitian became Rome’s premier venue for athletic competitions and, later, chariot races. Eventually the stadium fell out of use, and the city grew up around it. But as the popes reshaped Rome in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they Langdon and the Hassassin come face to face for the first time in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 38
  42. 42. turned their sights on the stadium ruins, transforming the area into an elegant piazza. Bernini’s rival architect, Borromini, built the church on the piazza, Sant’Agnese in Agone. While Borromini was building his church, Bernini was asked to design a fountain for the piazza. He and the craftsmen in his workshop created the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi—the Fountain of the Four Rivers. The statues on the fountain depict four continents and rivers:  The horse: Europe and the Danube  The palm and the snake: Asia and the Ganges  The lion: Africa and the Nile  The armadillo: The Americas and the Rio de la Plate Bernini sculpted only the horse; the other works were completed by artists in his workshop according to his designs. All the figures in the fountain shield their eyes from the sight of Borromini’s church—perhaps a slight against Bernini’s rival. And luck does not necessarily come to people who throw coins in the Fountain of the Four Rivers— that’s the Trevi Fountain, nearby. The Fountain of the Four Rivers is topped by an Egyptian obelisk. This obelisk was moved to the piazza from the Circus of Maxentius on the Appian Way and was originally brought to Rome from Egypt by the Emperor Domitian. Bernini also designed the Fontana del Moro— the Fountain of the Moor—at the southern end of the piazza. As Robert Langdon wrestles with the Hassassin in the Fountain of the Four Rivers, Langdon draws upon his skills as a swimmer and a water polo player to survive. When the Hassassin drives away, Langdon discovers that he has been unsuccessful yet again: He wasn’t able to save Cardinal Baggia, who drowned. And the Hassassin still has Vittoria. Langdon is confused, looking for another angel to guide him. But instead he sees a dove, the symbol of Pope Innocent X, the pope who commissioned the fountain. The lone dove is the pagan symbol for the Angel of Peace. The truth almost lifted Langdon the rest of the way to the obelisk. Bernini had chosen the pagan symbol for the angel so he could disguise it as a pagan fountain. Let angels guide you on your lofty quest. The dove is the angel! Langdon could think of no more lofty perch for the Illuminati’s final marker than atop this obelisk. (Chapter 105) Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 39
  43. 43. Visiting Piazza Navona Name: Piazza Navona. Notes: At Christmas time, Piazza Navona hosts a market where visitors can purchase children’s toys, traditional Christmas treats, and Italian nativity scenes, or presepio. At the north end of the piazza you can still see the remains of the Stadium of Domitian. Look for the museum entrance. The price and entrance times vary seasonally. Cost: Free. Hours: The piazza is always open, but it is most charming in the evening, when crowds gather around the fountains and enjoy espresso and gelato at the cafes on the piazza. It would be highly unusual to find the piazza deserted as Langdon does. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 40
  44. 44. The Church of Illumination: Castel Sant’Angelo On both sides of him now, like a gauntlet of escorts, a procession of Bernini angels whipped past, funneling him toward his final destination. Let angels guide you on your lofty quest. The castle seemed to rise as he advanced, an unscalable peak, more intimidating to him even than St. Peter’s. (Chapter 106) Langdon approaches Castel Sant’Angelo the way most people do: crossing the Tiber River on the Ponte Sant’Angelo. The bridge has not always been known as the Bridge of Angels, however. It was built by Emperor Hadrian and named the Aelian Bridge. When Bernini redesigned the approach to St. Peter’s Basilica and the piazza in front, he also redesigned the Aelian Bridge, adding a series of ten sculpted angels, which line the bridge's walls. After the addition of these figures, the bridge was renamed Ponte Sant’Angelo—the Bridge of the Sainted Angels. The angels resemble the figures of the saints with which Bernini crowned St. Peter’s Basilica and replay his decorative theme. The Ponte Sant’Angelo ends directly in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, the Vatican’s fortress. The fortress started out as a mausoleum in the days of the Roman empire. Built during the second century A.D., Hadrian’s Mausoleum was used as the emperors’ burial place for almost a century. The structure was originally covered in marble and travertine, topped with a mound of earth planted with trees, surrounded by statues, and crowned with a statue of Hadrian and a four-horse chariot. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great renamed the monument. Rome had fallen to the plague, and Pope Gregory had a vision: the angel Michael atop the mausoleum. Thus he renamed it: the Castle of the Sainted Angel. In the Middle Ages, the mausoleum was transformed into a fortress and altered significantly to become the Vatican’s stronghold, prison, and, for a time, treasury. The statue of Hadrian, removed long ago, was replaced by an angel. Now a museum, Castel Sant’Angelo offers a delightful view of the city as well as a café at the top of the structure. Castel Sant’Angelo is a labyrinth of rooms, chapels, dungeons, and lavish living quarters—all of which are open to the public. The building spirals up into the sky and down Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 41
  45. 45. into the earth and feels like a rabbit warren after centuries of adaptation and renovation. At several points in history, popes have been forced to flee the Papal Palace through Il Passetto, taking shelter in the fortress. In the split second it took Langdon to take in his surroundings, he realized he was in a sacred place. The embellishments in the oblong room, though old and faded, were replete with familiar symbology. Pentagram tiles. Planet frescoes. Doves. Pyramids. The Church of Illumination. Simple and pure. He had arrived. (Chapter 107) s for Although the Church of Illumination is fictional, a visitor can easily believe that secret chambers exist in Castel Sant’Angelo, where dark deed and secret plots have been hatched centuries. Some Angels & Demons fans are a little disappointed to find that the Hassassin would have had a hard time keeping four cardinals captive in Castel Sant’Angelo—the entire building, including the dungeons and the opening to Il Passetto, is open to the public as a museum. Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo Names: Castel Sant’Angelo, Hadrian’s Mausoleum. Notes: For more information about the museum at Castel Sant’Angelo, visit the website, Cost: €5. Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 9:00am–6:00pm; Monday closed; closed Christmas Day, New Year's Day, May 1. Castel Sant'Angelo is the site of the Church of Illumination in Angels & Demons. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 42
  46. 46. About the Author Angela K. Nickerson is a freelance writer and international tour guide. She travels regularly to a wide variety of countries, often with groups of her readers. Married to a Roman, she enjoys visiting Italy as often as possible. Angela is also the author of A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome. She can be reached through her website or at About Roaring Forties Press Roaring Forties Press publishes the highly acclaimed ArtPlace series. Each book in that series explores how a renowned artist and a world-famous city or area helped to define and inspire each other. ArtPlace volumes are intended to stimulate both eye and mind, offering a rich mix of art and photography, history and biography, ideas and information. While the books can be used by tourists to navigate and illuminate their way through cityscapes and landscapes, the volumes can also be read by armchair travelers in search of an engrossing and revealing story. Titles include A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, A Journey into Steinbeck’s California, A Journey into the Transcendentalists’ New England, A Journey into Matisse’s South of France, A Journey into Ireland’s Literary Revival, A Journey into Flaubert’s Normandy, and A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome. Visit Roaring Forties Press’s website,, for details of these and other titles, as well as to learn about upcoming author tours, readings, media appearances, and all kinds of special events and offers. Rome's Angels & Demons: The Insider's Guide Roaring Forties Press 43