If I haven’t mentioned it before, The Da Vinci Code trilogy are my ultimate guilty pleasure films. I watch all three films multiple times per year (though Inferno (2016) much less). And I just can’t get enough of the filming locations (covering Paris, Edinburgh, Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Venice and Instanbul!), the religious conspiracies and of course, Tom Hanks. It’s like they were all made just for my viewing pleasure. So when I visited Rome in May last year, I couldn’t wait to check out some of the top Angels and Demons filming locations in Rome and Vatican City.
Angels and Demons (2009) is the next instalment in Symbologist and Harvard Professor Robert Langdon’s quests to decipher ancient codes and religious clues to crack modern mysteries. His missions have taken him to Paris in The Da Vinci Code (2006) where he uses his unique expertise to uncover the truth behind the Holy Grail. This time, he’s in Rome and Vatican City to assist the Vatican in cracking down on their old foe, the Illuminati, who are apparently back in business and they seek their revenge.
The film takes place all over Rome and Vatican City. But as you might expect, the Vatican wouldn’t give access to shoot in many of the locations in the film since the Angels and Demons’ version of Christian history isn’t exactly orthodox. But the production did attempt to re-create as many true-to-life filming locations as they could in the studio.
This list is a complete guide to all of the real-life Angels and Demons filming locations. I’ve included the locations recreated in a studio (and I’ll mention the ones that were) because you can still visit the real film locations in Rome!
Angels and Demons Filming Locations in Rome (and Vatican City)
1. Sistine Chapel, Viale Vaticano, 00165, Vatican City
After Robert Langdon is approached by the Vatican at Harvard University to ask him to help them with their problems and the anti-matter is stolen from Zurich, the action switches to Rome and Vatican City fo the rest of the film. Firstly, see the Vatican staff setting up for the Cardinals to head into Conclave. The Pope has just passed away, and Conclave is where all the Cardinals lock themselves away and vote for a new pope.
In Angels and Demons, this happens in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums. Naturally, this scene was not actually shot in the Sistine Chapel! Instead, the scene was shot in a studio with a bit of CGI trickery.
2. St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza San Pietro, 00120, Vatican City
Next, Robert Langdon shows up in Vatican City and meets with the head of the Vatican Police outside St Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica is the largest church in the world and you absolutely shouldn’t miss it when you visit Rome. Naturally, a lot of the action in Angels and Demons happens at St Peter’s Basilica. But the scenes were all shot elsewhere, sadly.
They were all shot in a different building in a different part of Italy (I’ll reveal where at the end of this blog post!). And of course, in the studio. Later in the film, there is an important scene set in St Peter’s Square just outside of the Basilica which was also shot in the studio.
But if you are looking for the West Poniente wind rose tile on the ground of St Peter’s Square which was featured in the film… It’s west of the obelisk in the centre.
3. Biblioteca Angelica, Piazza di San Agostino, 8, 00186, Rome
The courtyard of this library stood in for a Vatican car park where Robert and Dr Vetra set off on their quest around Rome to find the path of illumination. It’s the scene just after the one where Robert gets permission from the Camerlengo to access the Vatican Archives.
If you’re into libraries, you should check out Biblioteca Angelica. Even though the film does not venture inside the library itself, people have commented that it’s one of the most beautiful libraries they’ve ever seen!
4. The Pantheon, Piazza Della Rotonda, 00186, Rome
The first stop on the quest to find the four missing cardinals and the canister of anti-matter is none other than the Pantheon, the oldest Catholic church in Rome.
The scenes inside the Pantheon are definitely all CGI’d. But I think the scenes shot outside on Piazza Della Rotonda look authentic enough.
The pair believe this church to be the first marker on the path to illumination… Until Robert and Vittoria realise they’re wrong. The first church is actually the next Angels and Demons filming location…
5. Chigi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo, 12, 00187, Rome
Robert and Vittoria drive around the obelisk in the centre of Piazza del Popolo (commenting on the connection to the Illuminati) before hightailing it into the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. This is the church that represents ‘earth.’
This is the first marker. The path is alive! – Prof. Robert Langdon
Angels and Demons recreated the interior of the church, crypt and chapel inside a studio. I mean, they do move the ‘demon’s hole’ which is part of the floor, I don’t suppose any church would let a film crew do that! In the film, the chapel is being renovated so it is covered in plastic and scaffolding which is very authentic as the church was indeed undergoing renovations!
Piazza del Popolo also featured in To Rome with Love (2012) which was, unsurprisingly, also set in Rome.
6. Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Via Venti Settembre, 17, 00187, Rome
It’s here that Robert figures out that the next church on the path (the ‘fire’ church) is Cornaro Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria Della Vittoria.
Naturally, as the church is literally set on fire, the church’s interior was filmed safely inside the walls of a studio in Hollywood.
7. The Fountain of the Four Rivers, Piazza Navona, 00186, Rome
The ‘water’ marker on the path is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, a sculpture/fountain that Bernini designed in Piazza Navona. The angel in question pointing the way is the ‘angel of peace’, the dove, on top of the obelisk in Piazza Navona.
I seriously did not realise how many Egyptian obelisks there are in Rome!
It’s here that Robert Langdon heroically saves the life of the last cardinal from being drowned in the fountain. I think this is one of the authentic Angels and Demons filming locations (yay)! But I imagine the underwater scenes were shot in a studio.
8. Castel Sant’Angelo, Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00193, Rome
The last location on the path of illumination is Castel Sant’Angelo, where the kidnapper was hiding the cardinals. And where the canister of anti-matter AKA big bomb is too! Finally, the end is in sight.
To be honest, it does look like the castle was used as a real-life film location. It’s not necessarily a religious building so that may not have been a problem. But some parts of the scene must have been shot in a studio.
This is the last of the notable Angels and Demons filming locations in Rome and Vatican City!
BONUS Angels and Demons Filming Location
9. Royal Palace of Caserta, Viale Douhet, 2/a, 81100, Caserta
As I said, Angels and Demons did not film in the real St Peter’s Basilica because they could not get permission. Instead, they shot in the Royal Palace of Caserta, situated 15 miles north of Naples. Both the interior and exterior were used for some scenes. As you can imagine, the Palace is filled with handcrafted sculptures and exquisite decor that would lend itself well as St Peter’s Basilica.
Angels and Demons is not the only film to utilise the Royal Palace of Caserta as a filming location, though. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars Episode II (2002) and Mission: Impossible III (2006). Naturally, it only stood in for St Peter’s Basilica in Mission: Impossible III! In the Star Wars films, the Palace was the Naboo Royal Palace. Not too shabby, eh?
And that’s all of the top Angels and Demons filming locations in Rome and Vatican City! Have you watched the film or visited Rome and The Vatican? Let me know in the comments below!