Tag Archives: museum

Mimi’s Virtual Angels and Demons Blog Tour continues: Castle Sant’Angelo

Castle Sant'Angelo on the banks of the Tiber

Day 6–Castle Sant’Angelo

Our virtual tour continues to follow the path of the Illuminati. We find Professor Langdon charging down narrow passageways in Castle Sant’Angelo, searching for Vittoria. The timeless structure and bridge leading to its doors have rested on the banks of the Tiber River since 139 AD.

The ancient cement exterior, a round shape surrounded by high walls, stands stark and imposing, hardly a castle in the traditional sense. Compared to an Italian villa or luxuriant St. Peter’s Basilica, Castle Sant’Angelo looks primitive and unfinished.

Originally constructed as Emperor Hadrian ‘s tomb, the mausoleum’s intended function changed almost as often as the popes. Over two millennia the site served as a fortress, prison, papal refuge and palace, military barracks, museum and …in Angels & Demons–the Church of Illumination and secret lair of the evil Hassassin.

Statue of Archangel Michael atop Castle Sant'Angelo

When the plague struck Rome in 590 AD, Pope Gregory the Great is said to have seen an apparition of an angel, Michael, sheathing his sword above the castle. He believed this meant the end of the disease for his city. In remembrance, a statue of Archangel St. Michael was erected high up on the terrace and the name Hadrian’s Tomb was changed to “Castle of the Holy Angel- Castle Sant’Angelo.”

The passetto or passageway connecting to the Vatican

In 1277 Pope Nicholas II ordered the building of massive circular walls and the famous 2,000 foot-long corridor connecting to the Vatican. The first floor includes a winding ramp about 400 feet long. Between the 10th and 14th centuries this defensive stronghold remained the only fortress in Rome. Powerful families fought to control it.

Many rooms within the fortress were turned into small cells for political prisoners, some more like torture chambers. The courtyards were used for executions by decapitation and the heads of the condemned then hung along the bridge.

The popes demanded ownership of the castle as one of the conditions for their return from Avignon. They left France for Rome and regained the strategic property, which they hold to this day.

During the Renaissance, Popes Nicolas V and Alexander VI modernized the defensive position with four iron bastions. A moat was added and the corridor or “passetto” was fortified. These timely improvements provided a refuge during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Papal apartment in Castle Sant'Angelo
Papal apartment in Castle Sant'Angelo

Plush Papal apartments were built during the mid 1500’s, seen from afar as the brick rectangular addition on top. The lavish rooms were frescoed and furnished with priceless collections. A treasury room in the centre was created to store the Vatican’s wealth. Space was provided for enormous reserves of food, in the event of an attack. There were wineskins set in the walls, huge water tanks, granaries and even a mill.

Castle Sant'Angelo at first light

A fifth bastion was added in 1560, but is now a garden. During the 17th century Bernini’s workshop was commissioned to sculpt angels for the bridge, thus the crossing became known as the Bridge of Angels.

In 1752 a bronze statue of Archangel Michael, added to the summit, replaced a former one. His sword points downward toward the main entrance, which Dan Brown uses to mean the hidden Church of Illumination.

The castle’s exterior then remained unchanged until restraining walls were added along the Tiber and external arches were evened with the three central ones.

In 1870 when Rome became the capital of the new state of Italy, alterations were made for military barracks. Today the icon stands open to the public as the National Museum of Castle Sant’Angelo. Restoration and preservation of the historic structure is ongoing.

If you’re in Rome and want to fully appreciate the famous site, first stroll along the opposite side of the river. The best photo op is sunset, but I found sunrise very dramatic. And, best of all, the view of the bridge without tourists creates a mystical scene.

Detail of the angel statue on the Bridge of Angels in Rome

Cross the Bridge of Angels admiring the detail and uniqueness of each statue. Then, enter the castle to tour and climb up five levels. You’ll find courtyards, cannonballs, corridors and cells. The panoramic view from the highest terrace is worth the price of admission.

And don’t forget to look up to see beloved Archangel Michael guarding the Eternal City, as well as leading the way to the next chapter in Angels & Demons…

Lander Family overlooks Rome from the open courtyard atop Castle Sant'Angelo

Going to Carolina ~ Chapel Hill

UNC BelltowerUNC B BallJT Museum

I was going to Carolina in more than my mind. I was on a plane for Raleigh Durham. Destination — Chapel Hill: home to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the boyhood stomping grounds of James Taylor.

“Who?” my daughter asks.

“You know, the guy who wrote and sang “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” and of course, “Going to Carolina,” I tell her.

“No,” she replies.

“Well, you should,” I say.

Too bad she wasn’t able to come along and tour the Chapel Hill Museum. I made the effort specifically to view the new exhibition: The James Taylor Story.

Chapel Hill shouts college town: collegiate shops bulging with logo paraphernalia, pizza, pita and burrito restaurants catering to big appetites and small wallets, and The Library, a place you can tell Mom you went last night, omitting the fact that it’s a bar.

The museum resides in an old house, a few blocks down Franklin Street, from its intersection with Columbia. That area, known as “top of the hill” is a spot that burns brightly in the hearts of UNC fans. Students congregate there, lighting bonfires whenever the Tarheels beat arch rival, Duke.

Nestled in this manicured garden community is the little museum featuring the Taylor display. While it only encompasses one corner, for baby boomers, it’s well worth an hour’s time.

The collection includes family photos, old report cards, childhood artwork like James’ self-portrait as a football player and a slew of album covers. Behind glass sits Taylor’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trophy, a Grammy award and a copy of a March, 1971 Time magazine with his face on the cover. Taylor says in a documentary, “being chosen for that cover was like winning the lottery.”

The best part is the Taylor theater; if you can call a few movie seats in front of a flat screen TV a theater. Here, one can choose from a vast collection of JT documentaries and taped concerts. I watched his interview on 60 minutes, 20/20 and Inside North Carolina.

Depression hit Taylor in his teens and drew him to heroin. He claims he should be dead, but was rescued. In one of the videos he said he has “an easier time singing about life, then living it.” Despite those early troubles, Taylor appears happy, a blessed fellow.

To me, he seems like a bottle of fine wine created with superior ingredients: a strong and clear voice, skilled fingers to master the acoustic guitar and the ability to search his soul and pour lyrics from his heart. He was crushed, but his juicy pulp fermented and gave rise to a winning blend. He mellowed on the shelf, twisted and turned until aged to perfection.

His voice remains easy, his ballads ring true. Little has changed over the decades, except his hairline. With James Taylor, you’ve got a friend.

523 Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC
919 967-1400

Pop Pop Fizz Fizz – The World of Coca~Cola

Coca-Cola World Entrance

When tornadoes twisted buildings in downtown Atlanta, a week prior to the Big South volleyball tournament, sponsors rebounded with venue changes. Pretty impressive considering the governor and mayor cancelled the event! The spandex clad girls across the country were not to be denied.

Laura’s team played late Friday then had Saturday morning free. So, Jay, Laura and I decided to pop over to the new World of Coca-Cola and found it fizzing with hot technology.

Red and white Coke memorabilia dripped from the ceiling and lighted display cases boasted old ads featuring celebrities like a Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. My favorite–the sentimental Norman Rockwell painting now worth two million.

Coke signs

Young children laughed at the trendy animated journey inside a soda machine, but Laura felt, “It was pretty lame.”

Afterward theater doors opened upon a cavernous expanse. The open lobby, painted swirling Mad Max style, reminded me of Times Square, except at 10 am, practically empty and much too quiet.

Onward through historical collections of sacred corporate objects– the can an astronaut drank in space, commemorative bottles, and hundreds of Olympic pins. Jay was drawn to the sublime yellow 1939 Chevrolet used for deliveries in Buenos Aires. The Pop Culture gallery hung original Andy Warhol’s, Coca-Cola Santa’s and that cute polar bear mascot.

1939 Chevrolet delivery truck

Factory production always rates a look and Coke was no exception. Machines hissed and clanked as the cola syrup turned into soda, got bottled, capped and then packed in cases.

The site’s main feature is a 4-D movie pitched with pop and piazza (3-D with moving seats). Those goofy glasses brought giggles and our chairs bounced and wiggled through the fantasy. Laura dubbed this one, “swweeeet,” but I was more inclined toward, “really cool.”

If there is one thing this corporation has accomplished with astonishing results, it is world-wide marketing and name recognition. Therefore, the menagerie of products in the company store was expected: bottle openers, golf balls, retro design fashion, neon signs, handbags made from recycled labels (folded by workers in Peru) and one-of-a-kind jewelry. Of course, the shop can be visited without museum admission and also online– www.worldofcoca-cola.com

Couldn’t miss drinking “the real thing” in the tasting room. I tried some of other 70+ Coke products and discovered I liked Tinley, a tart tonic water drink from England. But there’s no denying it. Sometimes all you want is a COKE?


The new World of Coca-Cola is located across from the Georgia Aquarium at Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta, GA. Entrance fees of $15 for 13-54 years, $15 for seniors 55 and over and $9 for children 3-12 years old.

Jay and I joked about Laura’s ticket costing two dollars more than ours, since we fall into the over 55 category. (No, I’m haven’t joined AARP, but took the discount.)