Palazzo Senatorio (Rome)

Palazzo Senatorio (Rome)


Description of Palazzo Senatorio

Piazza del Campidoglio
Tel. 06- 3996 7800
Bus: 63, 70, 75, 81, 87, 95, 160, 170, 204, 628, 716
Open: 9am- 8pm Tue- Sun
Closed: Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25


Palazzo Senatorio is a historic building in Rome, the town hall of the city since 1144, making it the oldest town hall in the world. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries on the ruins of the Tabularium and the temple of Veiove, it was renovated during the 16th century under the supervision of Michelangelo Buonarroti and later of Giacomo Della Porta.

Located in Piazza del Campidoglio, on the hill of the same name, it is flanked by the Renaissance Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, which make up the complex of the Capitoline Museums. Until the annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870, it was the seat of the Senator of Rome.



After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the administration of Rome passed under the papal hand until the uprisings that led to the birth of the Municipality of Rome in 1143-1144. The Capitol, on which stood the Tabularium, a republican building also used as a state archive during the imperial era, became the center of the city administration after the demolition of a stronghold of the Corsi family, built in the 10th century and destroyed in 1105 by Pope Paschal II.

The actual construction of a palace to be used as a town hall, on the ruins of the temple of Veiove and the Tabularium itself, began between the second half of the 12th and the first half of the 13th century, using the robust structure of the pre-existing buildings as reinforcement and terracing. to compensate for the difference in height between the southern slopes of the Capitol and the Roman Forum. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the building underwent some fortification interventions such as the closure of some arches of the loggia and the construction of several towers with the function of buttresses.

Under the pontificate of Paul III, in 1537, it was decided to restore the entire Capitoline complex and the project was assigned to the architect Michelangelo Buonarroti, whose designs were resumed on his death by Giacomo della Porta. Buonarroti in particular created the monumental staircase that led to the senatorial hall, while Della Porta, based on his drawings but proposing significant variations, designed the main facade of the building, which was only completed between 1593 and 1598, and united the rooms of the hall of the Senator with those of the upper room, giving life to what subsequently became the Julius Caesar hall. The layout of the square according to the Michelangelo project, including the pavement, was completed between the 17th and 19th centuries.

In a hall of the building, frescoes have been found, which for a long time remained hidden and damaged several times over the centuries, dating back to the 1920s or 1930s. The paintings portray a triumphant Christ, Saints Peter and Paul and traces of a halo that belonged to a Virgin Mary. Some art historians believe that they may have been made by Pietro Cavallini's workshop, others think of the work of Filippo Rusuti. Considering the place of the discovery and that at the time the palace was the seat of the highest administrative authority of the city, it seems likely that the latter availed itself of the skill of some of the best artists of the town. The presence of a noble symbol representing a column, next to the figure of St. Peter, made us think of the commissioning of the Colonna family. The patron has been identified by some scholars in the person of Cardinal Pietro Colonna. This, however, would make the work date back to the end of the 13th century, to the period between 1288 and 1297.



The facade of the building faces Piazza del Campidoglio and has a single entrance, reachable via the double monumental staircase, and two rows of windows. On the sides, the two buttress towers are still visible, while on the rear façade you can see the tower of Niccolò V (1451), which houses the mayor's office.

The double staircase designed by Michelangelo is decorated by a sculptural group consisting of: a statue of the goddess Rome, initially depicting Minerva sitting, placed in the center on the top of a fountain, and on the sides two monumental statues depicting the Nile (left) and the Tiber (right), the latter two from the temple of Serapis on the Quirinale. On the edge there are two mixtilinear basins that with the statue of the goddess Rome symbolize the remnant of a project wanted by Pope Sixtus V and abandoned after his death.

On the left side, towards via di San Pietro in Carcere going down towards the Roman Forum, there is the secondary entrance marked by a column with an Ionic capital surmounted by a copy of the Capitoline Wolf.

Patarina Tower
On the top of the building is the Patarina tower, built between 1578 and 1582 on a project by Martino Longhi the elder to replace the previous tower of medieval origin and more than 35 meters high, destroyed by lightning around the mid-sixteenth century . The square brick structure is divided into three superimposed orders, two of which are clearly visible. The latter are decorated with four arches (one for each facade) which enclose the bell cells occupied by two bronze bells dating back to 1804 and 1805. On top there is a replica of a statue depicting Minerva-Rome and a lightning rod to protect of the structure. The clock originally placed on the facade of the nearby basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli was transferred to the main front in 1806.

The epithet derives from the patarina, the name with which a bell from Viterbo was renamed as war booty. The capital of Tuscia in fact gave refuge to the Patarines, a movement that arose in the Milanese church and considered a heretic by the Roman church. This bell was cast several times starting from 1506 even if it is not clear what its fate was.

The bells of the tower usually ring on the occasion of the election of the mayor and the Christmas of Rome, even if there were extraordinary tolls, such as those on the occasion of the abdication of Benedict XVI on February 28, 2013.

Aula Giulio Cesare
The Julius Caesar hall, also known as the council hall, hosts the sessions of the Capitoline Assembly and throughout its history it has kept the function of meeting room unchanged for the various collegial bodies that have alternated in the administration of Rome.

High on the side walls are the flags of the 22 districts of Rome while some columns of the loggia of the original building are visible as well as some marble coats of arms previously placed on the facade of the building. At the two antipodes of the room, along the smaller sides, there are a loricated statue depicting Gaius Julius Caesar, hence the name of the room, and another, from the 1st century, depicting an unidentified Roman navarch. On the floor in the center of the room there is a 2nd century mosaic from a villa in the Casal Morena area.

The sculpture from which the hall takes its name is large (it is more than 3.1 m high) and perhaps comes from the Forum of Caesar. It dates back to the 1st century BC. and is in Grechetto marble. In 1936, a bronze replica was taken from the statue which was then placed in via dei Fori Imperiali. Other bronze replicas were placed in the same years in Rimini and Aosta.

Hall of the Tapestry
Used for various kinds of meetings, it takes its name from the precious Flemish tapestry dating back to the second half of the 16th century. In addition to the latter, the room houses two paintings: I Progenitori, by a Venetian painter of the eighteenth century, and La forge of Vulcano (seventeenth century), by Leandro Bassano, as well as the busts of the triumvirs of the Roman Republic: Carlo Armellini, Giuseppe Mazzini and Aurelio Saffi.

Hall of Flags
Obtained in the rooms of the tower of Martin V, it owes its name to the conservation of various flags including the 14 of the civic guard wanted by Pius IX in 1847, those of the districts, that of the 1960 Olympic Games and of the pirofregata Rome, with which it was wrapped the coffin of King Umberto I of Savoy, as well as the banner of Rome.

In the room the Capitoline junta meets around a historic ebony table made in 1842 and used on various historical occasions such as the meeting of the first municipal council of the city convened by Pius IX in 1847 and the triumvirate composed of Armellini, Mazzini and Saffi during the Roman Republic.

Hall of the Carroccio
The room is dedicated to the Carroccio whose remains were sent as a warning by Frederick II of Swabia after the victory in the battle of Cortenuova (1237) against the Lombard League. It is accompanied by an inscription that can be translated as follows:
«O Rome, receive the chariot as a gift from Frederick II Caesar Augustus, an auspicious ornament for the city. This, taken by the massacre of Milan, comes as illustrious prey to report the triumph of Caesar. He will remain to the opprobrium of the enemy; is sent in honor of the city of Rome. Love for her made it necessary to send him "

In the same room, mainly used for conferences, there are also several inscriptions and marble fragments of early medieval furnishings from the nearby basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli and from the rooms demolished during the construction of the Vittoriano.

Mayor's office
The mayor's study, located in the tower of Niccolò V (1451), is divided into two adjoining rooms. The first houses the actual studio while the second is used as a meeting room and the latter overlooks the famous balcony visible from the outside of the tower.

The first room is adorned with a statue and six paintings. The statue, depicting an unidentified draped woman, seems to date back to the first century and was found in 1953 in the area occupied by the temple of the Sun wanted by the emperor Aureliano in the third century. The rich clothing suggests a possible identification with either Fortune or a goddess-like queen.

The paintings instead are: a copy by a Tuscan painter of the Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti (16th century) by Iacopino del Conte, Parable of the unfaithful factor, by Domenico Fetti, Christ and Veronica (17th century), the work of an anonymous painter Emilian, Battaglia (17th century), by an anonymous Italian painter, and two Landscapes by two anonymous Italian painters.