Capitoline Hill

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Coordinates: 41.890873° N 12.483988° E The Capitoline Hill (Capitolinus Mons), between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the most famous and smallest of the seven hills of Rome. The English word capitol derives from Capitoline Hill.


[edit] History

[edit] Ancient

It was the site of a temple for the Capitoline Triad, started by Rome's fifth king, Tarquinius Priscus. It was considered one of the largest and the most beautiful temples in the city (although little now remains) and was probably founded on an earlier, Etruscan temple of Veiovis, whose remains and cult statue still survive. The role of the Capitoline Hill in city legend is linked with the recovery during the Regal period of a human head (the word for head in Latin is caput) when the foundation trenches were being dug for the Temple of Jupiter.

At this hill the Sabines, creeping to the Citadel, were let in by the infamous Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius. For this she was the first to suffer the punishment for treachery of being thrown off the steep crest of the hill to fall on the dagger-sharp Tarpeian Rocks below, and therefore gave her name to them. When the Celtic Gauls raided Rome in 387 BC, the Capitoline Hill was the one section of the city to evade capture by the barbarians.

When Julius Caesar suffered an accident during his Triumph, clearly indicating the wrath of Jupiter for his actions in the Civil Wars, he approached the hill and Jupiter's temple on his knees as a way of averting the unlucky omen (he was murdered six months later, and Brutus and his other assassins locked themselves inside the temple afterwards))[1].

The Tabularium, located underground beneath the piazza and hilltop, occupies a building of the same name built in the 1st century BC to hold important Roman records of state. The Tabularium looks out from the rear onto the Roman Forum. The main attraction of the Tabularium, besides the structure itself, is the Temple of Veiovis.

[edit] Medieval

The church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli is adjacent to the square, located adjacent to where the ancient arx or "citadel" atop the hill once stood. At its base are the remains of a Roman insula, with more than 4 stores visible from the street.

In the Middle Ages the hill’s classical sacred function was largely obscured by its other role as the center of the civic government of Rome, revived as a commune in the 11th century. The city's government was now to be firmly under papal control, but the Campidoglio was the former scene of many movements of urban resistance, such as the dramatic scenes of Cola di Rienzo's revived republic. As a result, the piazza was already surrounded by existing buildings by the 16th century.

[edit] Michelangelo

Michelangelo's systematizing of the Campidoglio, engraved by Étienne Dupérac, 1568.

The existing design of the Piazza del Campidoglio (as Romans called it by the 16th century) and the surrounding palazzos was created by famed Renaissance artist and architect Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1536 - 1546. He was commissioned by the Farnese Pope Paul III, who wanted a symbol of the new Rome to impress Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who was expected in 1538.

Michelangelo's first designs for the piazza and remodelling of the surrounding palazzos date from 1536. He effectively reversed the classical orientation of the Capitoline, in a symbolic gesture turning Rome’s civic center to face away from the Roman Forum and instead in the direction of Papal Rome and the Christian church in the form of St. Peter’s Basilica, solving the intractable urbanistic, symbolic, political and propaganda program for the Campidoglio.

The unfolding sequence, Cordonata piazza and the central palazzo are the first urban introduction of the "cult of the axis" that will occupy Italian garden plans and reach fruition in France (Giedion 1962).

However, executing the design was slow work: little was actually completed in Michelangelo's lifetime (the ‘’Cordonata’’ was not in place when Emperor Charles arrived, and the imperial party had to scramble up the slope from the Forum to view the works in progress), but work continued faithfully to his designs and the Campidoglio was completed in the 17th century, except for the paving design, which was to be finished only three centuries later.

[edit] Piazza

The bird's-eye view of the engraving by Étienne Dupérac shows Michelangelo's solution to the problems of the space in the Piazza del Campidoglio. Even with their new facades centering them on the new palazzo at the rear, the space was a trapezoid, and the facades did not face each other squarely. Worse still, the whole site sloped (to the left in the engraving). Michelangelo's solution was radical. The three remodelled palazzi enclose a harmonious and urbanely-coherent trapezoidal space, approached by the ramped staircase called the "Cordonata". Since no "perfect" forms would work, his apparent oval in the paving is actually egg-shaped, narrower at one end than at the other. The travertine design set into the paving is perfectly level: around its perimeter, low steps arise and die away into the paving as the slope requires. Its center springs slightly, so that one senses that one is standing on the exposed segment of a gigantic egg all but buried at the center of the city at the center of the world, as Michelangelo's historian Charles de Tolnay pointed out (Charles De Tolnay, 1930). An interlaced twelve-pointed star makes a subtle reference to the constellations, revolving around this space called Caput mundi, the "head of the world." (This paving design was never executed by the popes, who may have detected a subtext of less-than-Christian import. Benito Mussolini ordered the paving completed to Michelangelo's design — in 1940.)

[edit] Marcus Aurelius

In the middle, and not to Michelangelo’s liking, stood the only equestrian bronze to have survived since Antiquity, that of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor. Michelangelo provided an unassuming pedestal for it. The only reason that this sculpture survived the Authorities of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages, is that it was thought to be a statue of Emperor Constantine, who was the first Emperor of Rome to legalize Christianity in the empire, and who was baptised into the Christian faith on his death-bed (337).

[edit] Palazzi

He provided new fronts to the two official buildings of Rome's civic government, which very approximately faced each other, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Senatorio, and added one more. The sole arched motif in the entire Campodoglio design is the segmental pediments over their windows, which give a slight spring to the completely angular vertical-horizontal balance of the design. The three palazzi are now home to the important Capitoline Museums.

[edit] Palazzo dei Conservatori

The Palazzo dei Conservatori was the first use of a giant order that spanned two storeys, here with a range of Corinthian pilasters and subsidiary Ionic columns flanking the ground-floor loggia openings and the second-floor windows. Another giant order would serve later for the exterior of St Peter's Basilica.

[edit] Palazzo Senatorio
Image:Palazzo dei Senatori in the Piazza del Campidoglio.jpg
Piazza del Campidoglio, on the top of Capitoline Hill, with the façade of Palazzo Senatorio.

This had been built over the Tabularium that had once housed the archives of ancient Rome.

[edit] Palazzo Nuovo

He gave the space a new building at the far end, to close the vista, called Palazzo Nuovo, "new palace," and its facade was thought by Michelangelo as an exact copy to that of Palazzo dei Conservatori. It was begun in 1603 and finished in 1654.

[edit] Balustrade

A balustrade punctuated by sculptures atop the giant pilasters capped the composition, one of the most influential of Michelangelo's designs. The two massive ancient statues of Castor and Pollux which decorate the balaustra are not the same posed by Michelangelo, which now are in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale.

[edit] Cordonata

Image:Cordonata 1.jpg
The Cordonata

Michelangelo devised a monumental wide ramped stair (the Cordonata) ascending the hill to reach the high piazza, so that the Campidoglio resolutely turned its back on the Roman Forum that it had once commanded. It was wide so that nobles on horseback could ascend the hill without dismounting.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


br:Kapitol bg:Капитолий ca:Capitoli cs:Kapitol da:Kapitol de:Kapitol (Rom) eo:Kapitolo (Romo) es:Capitolino fr:Capitole it:Campidoglio (colle) he:גבעת הקפיטולין nl:Capitolijn ja:カンピドリオ no:Kapitolhøyden pl:Kapitol pt:Capitólio ru:Капитолий (холм) sk:Campidoglio sv:Capitolium

Capitoline Hill

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