The Capitoline Hill, or Collis Capitolinus in Latin, is one of seven famous Rome’s seven hills located between Roman Forum and Campus Martius. This hill is particularly regarded as the most sacred one despite its smallest size among all. The hill, together with the Temple of Jupiter, was a symbol of Caput Mundi or the capital of the world. Here lied important religious and political center of the city.
The main attractions of this hill are most sacred triad temples of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. The world-class Capilotine Museum is also a must visit place as here you can see many collections of Roman artifacts.
History of the Capitoline Hill
Capitoline Hill’s history was started with the arrival of the Sabines who immigrated to Rome due to the Rape of Sabine Women. Later, Emperor Tarquinius Priscus started the construction of a temple on the summit of the hill. The construction was completed under the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, Rome’s last emperor one century later in the 5th century BC.
There is another story why Capitoline Hill was dubbed as Caput Mundi. There is a legend that says that a human skull was discovered during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus. Head, in Latin is translated into Caput. This skull discovery was also the reason why the emperor ordered the Temple of Jupiter to be built.
In 390 BC, Capitoline Hill became a witness the Celtic Gauls invasion to Rome. It also became a place of refuge for those who tried to evade the barbarians’ capture. Another historical event that took place in the hill was when Julius Caesar approached the temple on his knees as an effort to put bad luck away after his accident following his triumph over the Civil Wars. Unfortunately, six months later, he was murdered by Brutus, who then locked himself up onside the Temple of Jupiter. The temple of Jupiter was also the place where Vespasian’s brother and nephew were besieged in 69 BC during the Years of Four Emperors.
Capitoline Hill became a place of important role during the Middle Ages. While the government of Rome was strictly ruled under the papal control, Capitoline Hill became the place where urban resistance spoke up their mind. The revolt in 1144 was a good example. The citizens protested against the authority of the Pope and the nobles which resulted in a changing of senator’s official residence. The new residence lied on the hill and had different orientation. A small piazza was then built to accommodate gathering for communal purposes. By the end of the 16th century, the hill was already full of government buildings.
When Charles V wished to visit Rome in 1536, the Pope was concerned with Capitoline Hill’s poor condition so that he ordered Michelangelo Buonarroti, a Renaissance artist and architect, to design a new piazza to replace the old one. The new piazza he designed was Piazza del Campidoglio. He also redesigned the surrounding palazzos including Palazzo del Senatore and Palazzo dei Conservatori. Michelangelo had such a great and extensive vision for this project so that it was barely finished upon his death in 1564. The whole recreation of the hill was finally completed in the 17th century with only minimum changes from his original designs.
What to See in Capitoline Hill
Aside than the already famous Temple of Jupiter, there are many other interesting and must-see sites in Capitoline Hill. Here are some of them.
Marcus Aurelius Statue
Prior to Michelangelo’s redesignation, an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius was erected in the middle of Piazza del Campidoglio. The statue was meant to be an impression of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Michelangelo then added a pedestal to accentuate the statue that he did not really like.
If you go the piazza now, however, you won’t see the real bronze statue of the Renaissance era. Instead, the statue you will find is the modern copy of the real statue which now is preserved in Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Palazzo del Senatore
Palazzo del Senatore was built in the 13th and 14th centuries on the top of ancient Tabularium. As the name suggests, the palazzo was the seat of senate until the 1870 when its function was converted into the seat of the city of Rome. However, tThe palazzo was once used to keep the archives of ancient Rome.
There is a double stairway leading to the palazzo which replaced the old steps on the side of the palazzo. There is a fountain in front of the stairways of river gods Tiber, Nile, and Minerva. While the new double stairways were designed by Michelangelo, the bell tower of the palazzo was designed by Martino Longhi and the façade was designed by Giacomo della Porta and Girolamo Rainaldi.
Palazzo dei Conservatori
Palazzo dei Conservatori is located across Palazzo del Senatore. During the middle ages, this palazzo was the seat of the city government. Now, the palazzo is a part of Capitoline Museums which houses art works such as sculpture and paintings. This is the place where the original Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue is kept. Another notable work kept here is the painting of a female wolf breastfeeding Romulus and Remus, the founder of the city of Rome according to the legend.
Palazzo Nuovo is the third building that surrounding the piazza. It was designed by Michelangelo and completed by Carlo and Girolamo Rainaldi in 1654. The palazzo was famous as the first public museum as Pope Clement XII opened the palazzo and all the art collection in it to the public. Among its collection are large statues of Minerva and Mars.
Cordonata is a long beautiful staircase which leads to Piazza del Campidoglio. It was, of course, designed by Michelangelo. Each stair in Cordonata is designed wide enough for horse riders to ascend the hill without dismounting. At the bottom of the stair flight, there are two Egyptian lion statues while marble statues of Castor and Pollux are stationed at the top.
Visiting Capitoline Hill
Capitoline Hill’s official address is at Piazza del Campidoglio 1, 00186 Rome. To get to Capitoline Hill, you can take Metro Line B and stop at Colosseo station. Bus lines are also available at 44, 89, 92, 94, and 716.
Capitoline Museums are available for visitors from Tuesday to Sunday at 9.30 am to 8.00 pm. The Museums are closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25. The ticket box closes one hour before the museum’s closing time.
The entrance fee is €6.5 for adults, €4.5 for EU students aged 18-24, and free of charge for EU children (under 18) and seniors (over 65). There are also children programs when children of 4 to 8 age are free of charge. Please note that an advance reservation is required.
You need to buy extra ticket for special events. A combined ticket covering Capitoline Museums and Centrale Montemarini, is €8.5 for adults, €6.5 for students. There is also a Tourist Card, which is valid for 3 days and offer discounted admission (entrance to the first 2 is free) to a variety of Rome monuments, museums and events and entitle holders to ride free on public transport. Roma Pass is €20; Roma & Più Pass costs €25.