'The Companion Guide to Rome' by Georgina Masson
By far the most interesting and picturesque route from the Vatican
to Castel S. Angelo is by way of the Via dei Corridori and Borgo
S. Angelo, which form one continuous street bordering on the famous
passetto or fortified corridor that connects the Vatican Palace
with the castle. The Via dei Corridori begins in the Largo del Colonato,
just between the Colonade of the Piazza of St. Peter's and the Piazza
della Citta Leonina, where two arches have been pierced through
the thickness of the passetto's supporting wall. According to same,
the passetto was built by Nicholas III in 1277, according to others
by the anti-pope John XXIII (1410-15); it was repaired by the Borgia
Pope, Alexander VI, later in the fifteenth century. The narrow corridor
in the thickness of the wall is surmounted by a battlemented walk;
this fortified escape route enabled Clement VII to take refuge in
Castel S. Angelo at the time of the sack of Rome in 1527.
'A Traveller in Rome' by H.V. Morton
While I was strolling in the gardens one day with an officer of
the Swiss Guard, we came to a series of old steps which lead to
the famous Corridoio di Castello, the corridor which, since the
Middle Ages, has stretched from the Vatican to the Castel S. Angelo.
A NCO of the Swiss Guard has his quarters at the top of the steps,
and I was told that it is the duty of the Guard to keep the keys
of the corridor, along which it is still possible to pass secretly
to the fortress.
we hope that if the Holy Father ever asked for the keys, it would
be for purely antiquarian reasons,' said the officer. 'And we always
have them ready.'
air of incredible age hangs about odd and unfrequented places such
as this. They are never cleaned up for visitors, and remain just
as the centuries have left them, like an old attic full of lumber
which no one visits from one generation to another.
we explored this queer, dusty bit of the Middle Ages, we came to
the locked gate leading to the corridor, a place which has the attraction
of a secret passage. The top is a machicolated walk and the corridor
itself is a narrow, arched passage hardly wide enough for two people
to walk abreast, and is roughly paved with brick and lit every few
yards by windows let into the thick walls.
though of that terrible morning of May 6, 1527, when, aided by a
fog that followed the sunrise, the armies of Charles V advanced
to the attack on Rome. There were Lutheran Germans, Catholic Spaniards
and Italians, but there was nothing to choose between them: they
were all ruffian mercenaries who had been unpaid for months and
thirsted for loot. As they stormed the Borgo, Clement VII, appalled
by the fate his politics had brought upon Rome, was on his knees
in St. Peter's. At first he was resolved to dress in full pontificals
and meet the enemy seated upon his throne, as Boniface VIII had
waited for Sciarra Colonna two hundred years before: but as the
cut-throats broke into the Hospital of S. Spirito, slaying all the
patients to spread terror, and the cries of the dying and the explosion
of cannon were heard on the very steps of St. Peter's, the Pope
was persuaded to take flight along the covered corridor to S. Angelo.
'Had he stayed long enough to say three creeds,' wrote an eyewitness,
'he would have been taken.'
the enormous scarlet train of his cappa del papa,the distracted
Pope was shown into the vaulted corridor and, to help him along,
a Cardinal looped the train over his arm. Clement wept as he looked
down through the windows of the passage and saw the fearful scenes
in the street below and in the space before St. Peter's, where the
Swiss Guard was dying to a man.
windows were so close together in the corridor that a Cardinal,
afraid that the Pope might be recognized by arquebusiers from below,
flung a cloak over his head and shoulders, and in that way Clement
VII was smuggled into the castle....
the corridor to S. Angelo one feels, as one does in the Tower of
London, that nothing cheerful could ever have happened there.