Through the centuries the Capitole was abandoned, becoming nude and deserted, reduced to a few pieces of marble and to the ruins of the Tabularium. At the beginning of the Middle Age the whole hill was just reduced to the possession of the cloister belonging to the Church of Santa Maria d’Aracoeli.
The triumph of Christian Rome, after dark and stormy periods, revenged its ancient right on the Mount Capitolino with the erection, in the VI cent., of the Church of Santa Maria d’Aracoeli, upon the ruins of the Temple dedicated to Juno.
In the huge church the municipal officers discussed the important matters of the time and the walls resounded with the harsh disputes and the heavy contrasts between the pope and the nobility, that met the greatest interest in the city.
Still the glory of the hill was so alive in the minds of the Romans that, revolting against the Pope’s domination, they elevated here, on the Tabularium, the new Comitium, the headquarter of the Municipal Council.
The German emperors climbed the hill to submit their right to govern to the agreement of the Roman people and the poets received here the laurel for their compositions (Petrarca received it in 1341).
In 1348 Cola di Rienzo inaugurated the marble stair that brought to the Ara Coeli, Altar of Heaven, , thus opening a new access also on this side. From here the great demagogue made his hot speeches.
Apart from the above mentioned buildings the site was completely deserted and forgotten. The total abandon was so evident that when decision was taken of according a triumphal reception to the emperor Charles V the hill was not taken into account for the ceremony because visibly too poor. Right after this event Pope Paul III had the idea of a global restoration of the hill, in a unique project – entrusted to Michelangelo – that gave birth to the current Campidoglio square.
The task assigned to the master was everything but easy, in particular if we take into account the fantastic and majestic inclinations of the artist, that hit at every step with the restricted limits imposed by the preexisting buildings. As a matter of fact the design of the square had to be done in respect of the Palace of Senators, already built, and, on the other side, the palace of Conservatori , built in 1450, that closed one side of the square. Works, begun in 1546, right after the death of Michelangelo, were later continued by Giacomo della Porta, Tommaso di Cavalieri and Girolamo Rainaldi and completed in the XVII century.
While climbing, stopping on the last step of the stair, you can admire the harmony of the most architectonic square in the world, surrounded on three of its four sides by palaces: the palace of Senators, the palace of Conservators and the New Palace.
It is remarkable the original artifice of the master that was able to create in the square a growing profundity. The façades of the side palaces incline towards the Palace of Senators. With this artifice the artist obtained the widening of the square, which is actually enclosed in a small surface. Moreover the square is not closed but open as a theatre scene, increasing so the panoramic effect. The two major stairs of the Palace of Senators contribute to this effect.
Against Michelangelo’s will the equestrian statue in gilded bronze of emperor Mark Aurel, moved from its original location, in front of the Lateran Palace, and the statues of Dioscures were placed in square.
In front of the staircase of the Palace there is a fountain and on the niche above it, the Master wished to have placed an enormous statue of Jupiter. Although it was decided to decorate this part with the statue of Minerva, sitting in the center, with on her sides the allegoric statues of the Tiber and Nile rivers, dating back to the I century A.D., the golden age of the Roman empire.
The Palace of Senators is dominated by the Capitoline Tower , whose original design, by Michelangelo, was modified and completed by Martino Longhi il Vecchio (1582).
The Palace of Senators is nowadays site of the Municipality of Rome and of its major. The two lateral palaces, the Palace of Conservators, on the right side, and the New Palace, on the left side, perfectly symmetrical, beyond their artistic importance, house the magnificent collection of the Capitoline Museums.
of the monument
on the map of Rome