Campidoglio & Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome
The Capitol, the smallest of Rome's seven hills, was the political and religious center of the ancient city. On its two summits stood the city's two principal temples, dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus and Juno Moneta, on the sites now occupied by the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. The lower area between them is now occupied by the Piazza del Campidoglio.
Campidoglio & Piazza del Campidoglio Map
Transit: Metro: Colosseo (line B); Bus: 57, 85, 87, 88, 90, 90b, 92, 94, 95, 716, 718, 719.
The Piazza del Campidoglio is reached from Via del Teatro di Marcellos by way of the ceremonial ramp and staircase designed by Michelangelo, passing a monument (on the left) to Cola di Rienzo, the 14th century tribune of the people, and statues of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), the Emperor Constantine and his son Constantine II. The square, also designed by Michelangelo, is bounded by the façades of three palaces, the Palazzo dei Senatori (to the rear), the Palazzo dei Conservatori (on the right) and the Palazzo Nuovo (on the left). It is not, however, totally enclosed, since there are openings between the buildings which allow passage to streets leading down to the Forum. The palaces are not set at right angles to one another but form a trapezoid, within which Michelangelo laid out an oval (marked by steps) and a star formation (marked by lighter-colored paving). This gives emphasis to the center of the square, in which an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) was set up. The statue, of bronze which was originally gilded, had previously stood in front of the church of St John Lateran. It was thought to represent the Emperor Constantine, who favored Christianity, and was accordingly preserved from destruction in spite of its heathen origins. Its true identity was revealed by Platina, the librarian to the Vatican, in the 15th century and in 1538 Pope Paul III had it transferred to the Piazza del Campidoglio. The statue was taken as a model for the greatest equestrian statues of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, including Donatello's Gattamelata in Padua and Verocchio's Colleoni monument in Venice. The statue, which had been badly damaged by air pollution, was restored in 1990 and protected against further decay, and is exhibited at the Museo Capitolino. This work, one of the largest achievements of antique sculpture, symbolizes strength and peace. The Emperor has his right hand raised in a gesture of peace, and under the raised right hoof of each horse was originally the figure of a defeated king with bound hands.