The Ponte Sant’ Angelo was constructed in 134 CE, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (r. 119-138). It was first known as the Pons Aelius and served as a triumphal approach from the city to the mausoleum that Hadrian (whose full name was Publius Aelius Hadrianus) had just had built.
The bridge was later called the Pons Sancti Petri, as it was used by pilgrims to reach St Peter's Basilica. It was only at the end of the sixth century that it came to be known as the Ponte Sant' Angelo, following the transformation of the mausoleum into the Castel Sant’ Angelo.
Only the central three arches belong to the original bridge, the other two arches were added at the end of the 19th century when the embankments were constructed.
In 1667 Pope Clement IX (r. 1667-69) commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) to add ten statues of angels (bearing the Instruments of Christ's Passion) to the parapets of the bridge. Bernini carved two of the angels himself, but farmed the rest of the work out to various fellow sculptors, including Ercole Ferrata, Cosimo Fancelli and Antonio Raggi. The master did, however, provide sketches and terracotta models of the whole series to ensure an acceptable degree of conformity.
The two statues which Bernini carved are now in the church of Sant' Andrea delle Fratte, having been replaced by copies.
In addition to the ten angels, two statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul stand at the end of the bridge furthest from the castle. The statues of Rome's two patron saints were commissioned by Pope Clement VII (r. 1523-34) and set up in 1534.