Sant’Angelo in Borgo was a 16th century confraternity church in Borgo Sant’Angelo, just west of Castel Sant’Angelo in the rione Borgo. It stood on the east corner of the junction with Via di Porta Castello, onto which the main entrance opened.
The dedication was to St Michael the Archangel. It was also known as Sant'Angelo al Corridoio.
The tradition was that the church was founded by St Gregory the Great, but this is unhistorical and depends on the legend of that pope having a vision of the archangel on the Castel Sant'Angelo. It is probable that the church was founded in the very early Middle Ages, but it was first dedicated to all the Angels and it is not possible to distinguish it from the other early churches in the Borgo and Vatican with the same dedication.
The first certain documentary reference is in the Anonymous Catalogue of Turin, 1320, and it occurs again in the Catalogo del Signorili about 1425. It was built against the old Leonine Wall, which sometime in the Middle Ages was converted into a private elevated walkway from the Vatican Palace to the Castel Sant'Angelo. This is the so-called Corridoio, also known now as the Passetto, which was definitevely restored for the purpose by Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503).
It was rebuilt in 1585 as a small edifice on a rectangular plan, in a similar style to Santa Maria in Traspontina. As such it served as the headquarters of a confraternity named after it -Arciconfraternita di San Michele Arcangelo a Corridoio di Borgo. It seems that the dedication was changed to St Michael in the process. The confraternity provided an oratory for themselves next to the church to the east, behind the high altar and with a separate entrance on the Borgo Sant'Angelo. This was in order not to interfere with parochial liturgies; the same arrangement existed at Santa Maria in Traspontina and San Giacomo a Scossacavalli nearby.
Both church and oratory were demolished ostensibly to widen the street in 1938, and some of the fixtures were transferred to Santa Maria Annunziata in Borgo. The street is not a major throughfare even now, and it seems the real reason for the demolition was to bring the Corridoio into view. All the other buildings abutting onto it on the north side of Borgo Sant'Antonio were demolished as well.
The confraternity survives and is now based at Santa Maria Annunziata, which itself was demolished but rebuilt on a different site.
The church was not butted against the Corridoio but had a little side chapel on the left hand side, and there was a gap between that and the old wall. Hence, you could walk between the Corridoio and the church -just about.
The site of the church is now in the middle of the roadway of the Borgo Sant'Antonio, on the east side of the junction with the Via di Porta Castello. The original street there was slightly south of the of the present one, and the rebuilt southern frontage has been moved north.
This was a small church, on a rectangular plan with a tiny transverse rectangular apse. The main body of the church had three bays, with two pilasters on each side wall supporting the ceiling vault.
There was an external side chapel on a square plan off the bottom left hand corner. As well as the main entrance on the Via di Porta Castello, there used to be another entrance on the Borgo Sant'Angelo but this had been blocked up by the time of the demolition.
The Confraternity's oratory was immediately to the east, perpendicular to the major axis of the church and with its own façade. It had a simple rectangular plan.
Elevation of the churchEdit
Being on a corner site meant that both the entrance façade and the right hand side wall were given architectural detailing. Both had two storeys, the second lower than the first.
The entrance façade had four Doric pilasters in the first storey, supporting an entablature with the frieze decorated with triglyphs and a strongly projecting cornice. In between the pilasters was a pair of rectangular niches, topped by triangular pediments with broken cornices and supported by curlicue corbels. The entrance had a fine marble doorcase with a raised triangular pediment. Above this was an archivolt in simple relief with another curlicue corbel at its apex, touching the architrave of the entablature.
The second storey had four dumpy Doric pilasters supporting a large triangular pediment. There was no entablature here, only the pediment cornice on which the pilaster capitals were superimposed. The tympanum of the pediment had a large, ornate tablet bearing the dedication, embellished with palm leaves, scrolling and curlicues in stucco. The centre of this storey was occupied by a window with a very slight curve to its top, and this was sheltered by an shallowly ogee curved cornice. In between the pilasters was a pair of recessed blank square panels.
The right hand side wall had four Doric pilasters in the same style as the façade, and supporting the same style of entablature. In between was a blank arcade of three arches springing from little Doric half-pilasters and with curlicue corbels at their apexes. The geometric curve of these arches was not circular, but looked like two conjoined hyperbolas.
There was a little bellcote over the east end, facing the entrance and having arches for two bells. There was a triangular pediment to this.
Elevation of the oratoryEdit
The oratory façade was more ornate, being evolved Baroque, and of one storey. It was obviously built later than the church. Two gigantic Doric pilasters supported only the horizontal roofline cornice. The entrance had a raised segmental pediment broken at the top, and a pair of upward-facing arcs inserted into the gap. This pediment intruded into a large round-headed window with an ornate molded frame and a gabled cornice.
Either side of the entrance was a pair of round-headed niches with the frames carved to resemble Doric pilasters supporting molded archivolts; the molding of the pilaster capitals was continued into the interior of the niches as a continuous band -a nice touch.
Above the central window was a vertical elliptical tondo with a wide molded frame having drapery swags on top and containing a fresco. This was flanked by a pair of rectangular windows with horizontal floating cornices.
The main altar had an altarpiece of St Michael by Giovanni De Vecchi (allegedly). There seems to have been only one side altar in the church, in the left hand external chapel. This had an anonymous 19th century altarpiece showing St Joseph, and was frescoed by Giovanni Battista Montano with The Apparition of the Archangel Michael to St Gregory.
On the right hand side wall was a pair of lunette frescoes of 1860 by one Pacelli, showing the story of the confraternity establishing themselves here. Also, here was a French bronze by Maurice Lefèvre showing St Michael Conquering Satan.