Of the seven hills that comprise Rome, the Capitoline Hill or Campidoglio is considered to be the most sacred. This hill is the place where the city’s ancient and most holy temples once stood. The Temple to Jupiter is considered the most sacred temple. The triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva is also considered sacred. Presently, the Capitoline Hill houses the Capitoline Museums, which is a world-class museum housing Roman artifacts.
The Capitoline Museums in Rome were built in the 17th century. They are designed on the basis of an architectural sketch by Michelangelo. The museum comprises of two, distinct galleries. Both these galleries stand across the square. They are known as Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazza Nuovo. The former gallery has a larger and much varied collection.
Palazzo dei Conservatori is famous for its equestrian statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius, belonging to the second century AD. The statue was situated on the Piazza del Campidoglio from the beginning of the 16th century till the year 1981. It became a victim of pollution while in the piazza. The statue has lately seen a lot of restoration work and is now placed in the museum for protection. The Cortile di Marforio, which is a type of Renaissance greenhouse, houses the wonderful statue.
The statue is the only one of its kind to survive from the times of ancient Rome. It probably survived as it was possibly mistaken to depict Constantine, a Christian emperor, rather than Marcus Aurelius, who was a pagan. The statue, for all its beauty, is rather odd in perspective. Legend and folklore has it that one day the original, gold patina of the statue will return, bringing with it the end of the world.
The museum is also home to a mammoth, bronze statue of Emperor Constantine and a bronze statue of Hercules. Hercules is seen to be brandishing his club. The Hannibal Room is home to many paintings of the 15th century that describe the city’s wars with its nearest rival Carthage. Romulus and Remus are considered to be the founders of Rome. The Etruscan bronze she-wolf, which is considered to be the sacred symbol of the city, is housed in this museum. The addition of the twins to the Etruscan wolf was carried out in the 15th century.
The Palazzo dei Conservatori’s second floor is home to Renaissance paintings. The paintings belong to the 14th and 17th centuries. Some of the masterpieces include Burial of Santa Petronilla. Santa Petronilla was a Roman martyr believed to be the daughter of St Peter. The famous artist Guercino is believed to have painted this. The museum also houses John the Baptist by Caravaggio.
The courtyard of the museum is home to a mammoth statue of Emperor Constantine. His eyes are focused toward heaven. The index finger of one hand points upward. The statue was originally placed outside the basilica.
The Dying Gaul occupies the first room of the Palazzo Nuovo. This is a work of remarkable skill. It is a copy of the Greek original that dates back to the 3rd century BC. Capitoline Venus lies in an exclusive gallery. This statue became a symbol of feminine beauty for many centuries. Amore, another name for Cupid, and Psyche seem to perform their usual tricks by the window. The museum is also home to many busts and statues of famous emperors and individuals, such as Augustus, Caracalla, and St Helena.