The Italian Almanac

Marcus Aurelius in Campidoglio square

Italian News - December 16

A renowned statue of Marcus Aurelius, considered a symbol of Rome, has found a permanent home after 26 years of wandering. The massive equestrian bronze will be on view starting next Thursday in a special glassed-in section of the Villa Caffarelli gardens on the Capitoline Hill, designed by the architect Carlo Aymonino.

The statue was removed from its longstanding place of honour at the centre of Michelangelo's Campidoglio Square following an attack in 1979. Combined with the effects of pollution, this convinced authorities that the national treasure would need a more permanent form of protection. A nine-year restoration returned it to its former condition but it was decided to replace the original with a perfect bronze replica. The original was moved to the Capitoline Museums, just a few steps away from Campidoglio Square, as a temporary measure in 1990.

There was initial uncertainty over where it should be placed, and for a while, authorities considered using both the original and the replica in the square in alternating shifts. But in the mid-1990s, Rome city council decided to extend the Capitoline Museums, which house many of Rome's treasured antiquities, by glassing in the neighbouring garden. As well as providing a home for the statue, which is housed in a climate-controlled, bright and airy central room, the construction produced a surprise bonus: the discovery of the remains of an enormous temple dedicated to Jupiter, dating back to the 6th century AD.

Marcus Aurelius Antonius (121-180 AD) came to the throne in 161 AD and was the last of the 'five good emperors' in the two-century period of Roman peace. He was also a stoic philosopher and is remembered for his work written in Greek 'Meditations'. When Marcus Aurelius died of the plague in 180 AD, the throne was handed over to his son Commodus.