An entrance to the "Passetto di Borgo", the narrow passage used by the Popes to escape during invasions, in Rome, Italy
Contributor:Danilo Poccia / Alamy Stock Photo
File size:57.7 MB (5.3 MB Compressed download)
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Dimensions:3667 x 5500 px | 31 x 46.6 cm | 12.2 x 18.3 inches | 300dpi
Location:Rome, Lazio, Italy
The Passetto di Borgo, or simply Passetto, is a secret passage that links the Vatican City with the Castle of Sant' Angelo. It is an approximately 800 m long corridor, located in the rione of Borgo. It was erected in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, but parts of the wall were built by Totila during the Gothic War. From outside it looks like a wall but inside there is the tunnel, which on several occasions served as an escape route for Popes in danger. Pope Alexander VI crossed it in 1494, when Charles VIII invaded the city and the Pontiff's life was in danger. Clement VII escaped to safety through this passage during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, massacred almost the entire Swiss Guard on the steps of St Peter's Basilica as the guard protected the Pope, buying him time to escape through the Passetto. It played a key role in the Dan Brown novel Angels & Demons, through which the antagonist (a Hashishin) transported four abducted cardinals to the Castle of Sant' Angelo. The protagonists Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra later used the Passetto as a shortcut to Vatican City.