Tours of papal dungeons in Rome

This is a video of Castel Sant’Angelo & St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome at night time.

From Italian news agency ANSA:

Papal dungeons reopen for business

Rome, July 11 – The dungeons in which popes once threw enemies of their earthly power will reopen this summer for spooky night tours.

The tiny grated cells under former papal fortress Castel Sant’Angelo are clinking open again after a ten-year restoration.

Visitors will be shown into the dank, oil-lit spaces where thousands of political and common criminals were shut away in the days that the Vatican held temporal sway over Rome and much of central Italy.

Guides will recount the tales of famous inmates such as turbulent gold-working genius Benvenuti Cellini who spent months there in 1538 on charges of embezzling the papal tiara and tried a daring escape amid fears of the noose.

Heroes of the Risorgimento, the movement that eventually reunited Italy and ended the papal state, were also enclosed in the jail above Emperor Hadrian‘s ancient tomb – as recounted in Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera Tosca.

Among the other notorious guests was Cagliostro, a Freemason and alleged occultist sent to the dungeons by the Inquisition.

Inmates who met their death on the scaffold included a Roman family, the Cencis, hanged in 1599 after a shocking affair of incest, murder and revenge.

Their story – and in particular the apparent innocence of daughter Beatrice – inspired writers like Shelley, Dumas and Stendhal.

Guided tours of the prison, lasting from 21:30 to 23:10, will start on July 13 and end a month later.

Puccini’s Madam Butterfly: here. And here.

1910: Giacomo Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West (titled in English “The Girl of the Golden West”) premiered at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, the first time a major European opera had opened in the US: here.

7 thoughts on “Tours of papal dungeons in Rome

  1. 2008-05-14 12:39
    Cellini feted in Florence
    Renaissance sculptor among stars of Florence Genius fest
    (ANSA) – Florence, May 14 – Florence is gearing up to celebrate the colourful life of 16th-century artist Benvenuto Cellini as part of a two-week event devoted to some of the Tuscan city’s most famous sons.

    Cellini (1500-1571) was a goldsmith, writer and sculptor who created the famous bronze sculpture of Perseus holding aloft the Gorgon Medusa’s head now in a loggia on one side of Piazza della Signoria.

    Although he is now considered one of the greatest artists of the high Renaissance and a key precursor of Mannerism, for many centuries he was known more for his intense and revealing autobiography than for the many works he left behind.

    Cellini was in constant trouble with authorities for his duelling and brawling, and the goldsmith recounted in his memoirs how he killed four men including Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, during the duke’s attack on Rome.

    He was also charged with sodomy and was said to be particularly fond of the boys who modelled for him, although he later married. Cellini counted numerous famous and powerful patrons during his career, including Pope Clement VII, Pope Paul III, King Francis I of France and the Florentine Medici family.

    He was credited with rediscovering the Greek and Roman technique of casting a whole piece of bronze at once. The usual practice in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance had been to cast works in pieces and then join them.

    The Perseus, which was made from a single casting of 1,800 kilos of bronze, was his most famous sculpture produced using the technique.

    Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla has written a musical about Cellini, which will inaugurate the Florence Genius Festival on May 15.

    The festival, which runs until May 25, sees 100 events taking place in the city and in 44 surrounding towns.

    Among other tributes to Florence’s famous figures will be a ‘simultaneous’ reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy by 450 performers in the city centre on May 17 and an exhibition of drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael, which runs May 25 to August 31 at Palazzo Medici Riccardi.


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