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35. Campidoglio, history ad art

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

By - Giulio D'Ercole

Either very early in the morning, at sunset or at night a walk to the Campidoglio, the Capitoline Hill of Rome is a must. Placed between the Forum and the Campus Martius, Campidoglio is in fact one of the seven hills of Rome and it is of a particular importance in Roman history and art.

The hill was earlier known as Mons Saturnius, the mountaind named after the god Saturn, while the word Capitolium first meant the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus , which was later built on it. The Capitolium was regarded by the Romans as indestructible, and was adopted as a symbol of eternity.

The Latin word Capitolinus changed in the 16th century to become Capitolino in Italian, while Capitolium translated to Campidoglio. The Capitoline Hill contains few ancient ground-level ruins, as they are almost entirely covered up by Medieval and Renaissance palaces (now housing the Capitoline Museums). Most important is that the piazza (square), with its buildings was designed by Michelangelo in 1536–1546. At the height of his fame, he was commissioned by the Farnese Pope Paul III, who wanted a symbol of the new Rome to impress Charles V, who was expected in 1538. This offered him the opportunity to build a monumental civic plaza for a major city as well as to reestablish the grandeur of Rome. His plan was formidably extensive. He accentuated the reversal of 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.

I believe that the best time to come here for the photography workshop is at sunset or late at night, when nobody is around and one can take gorgeous shots of the square from many different angles, focusing on the whole design of the square as well as on the very many details that embellish it.

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