Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome

(1538-1564)
   The Campidoglio is the piazza on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. In the ancient era, this had been the seat of the Roman government, and Pope Paul III wanted to revive the site to function as the center of the new Rome of the popes. To this effect, he commissioned Michelangelo to design the piazza and refurbish two buildings already on the site, the Senators' and Conservators' palaces. These two structures formed an awkward 80° angle. Rather than feeling intimidated by the unusual layout, Michelangelo used the asymmetry to his advantage. He erected a third structure across from the Conservators' Palace, the Palazzo Nuovo, also placing it at 80° thus attaining a trapezoidal shape for the piazza. He then reworked the façades of the existing buildings to conform to the classical forms of the new structure. Within the trapezoid, Michelangelo added an oval design on the pavement that encloses a series of rhomboids. In the center of the oval, Paul III ordered Michelangelo to place the ancient equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, until then located near the Church of St. John Lateran and thought to represent Emperor Constantine the Great. Michelangelo designed a pedestal for the statue and complied with the pope's wishes. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity and he therefore is symbolic of the triumph of the faith over paganism. Hence, such a figure was the proper choice for the piazza that was to become the new center of Christendom.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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