Published: June 16th 2017
Geo: 41.8955, 12.4823
I am a big fan of Dan Brown’s books and my favorite is Angels and Demons because it is set in Rome, of course!!! The movie does a great job of showing off some key sites in the city.
A few years ago I walked the complete path followed by Robert Langdon to track down the assassin hired to kidnap four Preferati, Cardinals most likely to be voted the next Pope, and subsequent kill three of them. Following is a very much abbreviated version of the steps taken to track down the assassin and solve the mystery of why he was hired in the first place.
In a race to stop these murders, Robert follows the path of the Illuminati which is a secret path through Rome created by the original members, Bernini and Gallileo, so their meeting place in the Castel San&’Angelo could not be found by the religious right who did not believe that science had a place alongside religion. Using a code from a booklet written by Galileo and housed in the Vatican Archives, Robert and Vittorio, race around Rome trying to find the Cardinals to save them. This race is also on because a canister of stolen
Anti-matter has been hidden inside the Vatican and will explode when the battery dies. Vittoria Vetra a scientist from CERN in Switzerland who was on the team that harnessed the anti-matter. Only she can change the battery!
The path begins at the tomb of Raphael which is now in the Pantheon but it turns out to be a false lead as this was not the original resting place which begins the race through the four sciences &– Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. The locations that match these sciences are well worth a visit whether you are an Angels and Demons fan or not.
Earth &– Santa Maria del Popolo &– the church is at the far side of the Piazza del Pololo and is the burial place of the Chigi&’s a prominent banking family of Rome and sponsors of Raphael and Bernini. In this location one of the cardinals is found “buried” inside one of the burial holes below the floor with his mouth filled with earth. From the outside this church is very unassuming but it is well worth a visit to see the incredible art of Caravaggio and Bernini sculptures.
Wind – This is one of the markers on the
ground around the central obelisk at St Peter&’s Square. It is circular, and represents an angel breathing out a powerful gust of wind. This symbol provides the setting for the murder of a Cardinal by means of punctured lungs.
Fire &– Santa Maria Della Vittoria &– The magnificent Transverberation of St. Theresa is the central sculpture in a group designed by Bernini for the Cornaro Chapel inside Santa Maria della Vittoria. The connection to the exquisite experience with fire is clear. The third Cardinal was engulfed in flames.
Water – Piazza Navona – This is one of Rome&’s most beautiful squares, containing a veritable showcase of baroque sculpture. The one of central interest for the story is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the fountain of the four rivers. This is a beautiful fountain in the center of the Piazza and it was created by Bernini. Another example of his incredible talent. The last of the four Cardinals is dumped into the basin of this fountain and the movie has an intense scene where Robert saves the Cardinal&’s life. Robert is an avid swimmer but when you see the fountain it is clear that it is not as deep as it is
made to be in the movie &– oh well.
Castel San&’Angelo and Il Passeto are the end point for catching the man responsible for the murders. Castel San&’Angelo was initially built to be Hadrian&’s mausoleum but over the centuries it was used for many things not the least of which was a papal retreat in the event that Vatican City was in any kind of threat. Il Passeto is a walkway that connects the two and is also featured in the movie.
Back at St. Peter’s the canister of anti-matter is found in the burial place of Peter the Apostle. Reality is stretched a bit here because you can’t actually step down into the tomb as they did in the movie. But it doesn’t really matter – it is a fun ride to watch and visiting these sites for real is worth it whether you have read the book or seen the movie or not.,
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