Campitelli is probably a corruption of Capitolium, the highest peak of the hill that now bears the same name, where Rome's major temple once stood, dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus (see further).
The etymology of Capitolium seems to be bound to Aule Vipinas and his brother Caile Vipinas (from whose name the Coelian Hill was named); they were Etruscan leaders, who in the 6th century BC had conquered Rome under the reign of Tarquinius Priscius. In a clash for power, the mercenary Macstrna, who according to historical sources became the next king, taking the Latinized name of Servius Tullius, had his rival Aule killed. The leader's head was eventually found during the making of the aforesaid temple of Jupiter, so caput Auli (Latin for "Aule's head") may have inspired the name of the hill.
Others, though, maintain that the origin of the name might lie in a nearby campus telluris ("earth field", or "dug field").
During the Middle Ages, this was the twelvth district, called Regio Campitelli in Sancti Adriani, referred to the ancient church of St.Hadrian, built out of the Curia Iulia, the hall where the senators met in the Roman Forum. In the early 20th century the church was taken down, and the Curia was given again its original shape.

ancient cobblestone street paving
in a street of the Roman Forum

According to a medieval legend, in a cave by the Palatine Hill lived a terrible dragon, who killed passers-by with his breath. Pope Sylvester I challenged it, carrying a cross, whose view turned the beast so tame that the pontiff lead him away on a leash, and the people then killed it. The tale is a metaphor of the victory of Christianity over paganism (the dragon): Sylvester I was the pope who baptised Constantine I (although he did so on his deathbed), the emperor who in AD 313 had lifted the ban on Christian religion in the Roman Empire by issuing the Edict of Milan.

Piazza di San Marco; via di San Marco; via d'Aracoeli; via Margana; piazza Margana; via dei Delfini; via Cavalletti; via della Tribuna di Campitelli *; via del Foro Piscario, via del Teatro di Marcello *; vico Jugario; piazza della Consolazione; via dei Fienili; via di San Teodoro; piazza di Santa Anastasia; via dei Cerchi; via di San Gregorio; via dei Fori Imperiali; piazza Venezia.
* today via della Tribuna di Campitelli and via del Foro Piscario are no longer connected; this spot can be bypassed following via del Portico d'Ottavia, or piazza di Campitelli and via Montanara

← the staircase by Michelangelo leads to Capitol Square

(the black numbers in brackets refer to the map on the right)

Campitelli is the historical district with the lowest population density, because about 75% of its surface is occupied by an extremely large archaeologic area, which includes two hills, namely the Capitolium [1] and the Palatine [2], the Roman Forum [3], and the Colosseum [4]. Prior to 1921, Campitelli stretched more south than its present boundaries; but in that year one part of its original territory was separated, to become the nineteenth independent district, Celio.
During the Iron Age, only hills and swampy valleys could be found there. The former were inhabited by autonomous tribes, who around the 9th century BC began to meet and trade cattle, salt, and other products. Here the two main pre-Roman cultures converged, the Latins, who came from the plains of the southern part of Latium region, and lived on the left bank of the Tiber (or southern bank, considering the suburban course of the river), and the Etruscans, whose southernmost settlement spread across the right bank, or northern bank (see the map below).

As more and more tribes merged, in the 8th century BC an early city was founded on the top of the Palatine Hill; its position could benefit from the nearby river, and also from the Capitolium Hill, taller and therefore of strategic importance for the defense of the inhabited area.

the boundaries of Latium, Sabina and Etruria (Thyrrenia) in
c.750 BC circa; the Etruscan cities are mentioned with their
original names and (in brackets) their Latin names
On the Palatine Hill, Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome and first king, built his own house. Soon the city spread to the nearby peaks, the famous seven hills.

In the valley to the north, bordered by the Capitolium and Quirinal Hills, every eight days a market was held. So this area became the centre of the public life in the ancient city; early temples were built, and the swamp was reclaimed (once a small pond was there, surrounded by muddy grounds), until the actual Forum was created, whose name likely comes from the archaic Latin foras ("away, far from home"), as this place may have appeared to those who left the inhabited peaks to come and trade their goods.

Over the Capitolium, the highest peak of the Capitolium Hill, the largest and most ancient of all Roman temples was built, named after Jupiter Optimum Maximum, or Capitoline Jupiter, dedicated to this divinity, as well as to Juno and to Minerva, which formed the so-called Capitoline Triad. The inside was divided into three parts, with three separate cells; the central one contained a statue of Jupiter made of ivory and gold.
According to historical sources, the temple was built by the late 6th century BC; the works began under the Etruscan king Lucius Tarquinius Priscius, continued under Lucius Tarquinius the Proud, and ended at the dawn of the Republican Age (509 BC), when one of the first consuls, Marcus Horatius Pulvillus, officially opened the temple. It was an imposing building for those times and, due to its position, it could be seen from any part of the city.
the Palatine Hill (Palatium and Cermalus), the Capitolium (Capitolium and Arx)
and their surrounding during the early Republican Age
It was burned twice by fire, in 83 BC and in 69 AD, but in both cases it was entirely rebuilt.
Under the Christian emperors, all the precious material it contained was plundered, but the buiding stood at least until the 9th century. Today nothing is left of the temple, except a fragment, housed in the Capitoline Museums.

The word capitolium was used for indicating other similar temples, dedicated to the three joint divinities, many examples of which could be found in other Roman cities and provinces.
On the minor peak of the Capitolium Hill (Arx), by the mid 4th century BC a further temple was built for Juno Moneta, i.e. "admonishing Juno"; next to this temple stood Rome's coin mint. But the top of the hill was also scattered with several other minor temples, built in different ages.

← the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, founded by the end of the 5th century BC;
during the Republican Age, the treasury (aerarium) and the state archive were kept in it

After Romulus, over the centuries the Palatine Hill was chosen as a residence by the ruling class; during the Republican Age famous personages dwelt there, among whom Cicero.
The emperors too lived on the Palatine Hill, starting with Octavian Augustus, who built there the first imperial palace; it was later on rebuilt and enlarged by Domitian, by the end of the 1st century AD, and further enriched by Septimius Severus (in c.200) with a section standing beyond the eastern side of the hill, supported by mighty substructures. It formed a single huge complex, initially known as Domus Augustana (i.e. "the emperors' residence") and then Palatium, taking the name after the southern peak of the same hill; the northen one, instead, was called Cermalus. The fronts of the buildings in the complex were lined along the western side of the Palatine Hill, facing the Murcia Valley, where the Circus Maximus stretched. The word palatium began to be used metaphorically for indicating any grand residence.

the imperial palaces on the western side of the Palatine Hill, along the boundary with Ripa district

During the Middle Ages, with the exception of some further extensions by the Ostrogoth king Theodoric (c.500) and the use as a residence bt pope John VII (705-707), who preferred this complex to the Patriarchium in the Lateran grounds (see Monti district), the Palatine Hill fell into a state of abandonment and the Palatium suffered the pillage of all its precious material, in the same way as other ancient city monuments did. Also the Forum and the temples over the Capitolium met the same fate, especially because of the Christian iconoclasm.

the Palatine Hill in the map by G.B.Nolli (1748): the northern area
(yellow colour) is indicated as Farnese Gardens and Villa,
which was accessed by a gate located along the north-eastern side
Only by the mid 1500s, cardinal Alessandro Farnese (the nephew of pope Paul III and the son of Margaret of Austria) bought the northern part of the hill (the Cermalus), filled with earth the ruins of the house of Tiberius, and commissioned architect Vignola with the making of gardens. The whole hill was separated from the Campo Vaccino (i.e. the Forum) by means of a surrounding wall. Up to 1884 the Farnese Gardens were still approached from the north-eastern side of the Palatine Hill, by means of a lavish gate, for whose making Vignola is credited, with the inscription Horti Palatini Farnesiorum (Farnese Gardens of the Palatine); in 1884 it was disassembled, and the wall taken down, in order to join the Palatine Hill to the Roman Forum. No sooner than 1948, the gate was set back, on the south-eastern side of the hill, along the present via di San Gregorio, corresponding to the ancient Roman via Triumphalis, which marks the boundary between Campitelli and Celio districts.
In the map by Giovanni Battista Nolli (1748) the northern half of the Palatine Hill is occupied by the villa of the Farnese, while its southern part, which in previous maps appeared desertic and abandoned, is divided into lots used as vineyards and private orchards and gardens.

The archeologic interest for the Palatine Hill started in the 1700s; however, the actual excavation campaign that dismantled the Farnese Gardens and unearthed other structures that had been buried during the Imperial Age, only took place after the fall of the Papal State. The archaeologist who conducted the works, Giacomo Boni (1859-1925), by his own will was buried on the same hill.

The Forum area, where during the Middle Ages the ground level had considerably risen due to the accumulation of earth and debris, burying many ancient remains, from the 16th century started acting again as a cattle market, as it had in the archaic ages, and for this reason was renamed Campo Vaccino ("cattle field").
Also in this area intensive archaeologic excavations only started when Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
For details about the evolution of the Capitolium Hill from the Middle Ages to the present days, see the Miscellaneous section.
During the 11th century, the early Senators Palace built on top of the hill had been the meeting place of public administrators (Senators and Conservers); in the same way, as of 1870, the 16th century version of Senators Palace became the seat of Rome's Town Hall. The latter is flanked on both sides by the Capitoline Museums, that boast the record of being the most ancient museum in the world accessible to the public, having been opened in 1734 by the will of pope Clement XII. By ancient tradition, from Capitolium Square all geographic distances to and from Rome are still measured today, being held as the city's centremost spot.

the inside of the Curia Iulia, in the Roman Forum
The top of the hill, which actually corresponds to the saddle between the two peaks (Capitolium and Arx), is occupied by Capitolium Square [5], surrounded on three sides by a complex of buildings drawn by Michelangelo; the same artist also built the long flight of flat and slightly inclined steps that leads to the square. For a detailed description, see the relevant page in the Miscellaneous section).

Standing next to Capitolium Square, but reachable also from the base of the hill by means of a steep staircase (124 steps), is the 14th century church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli [6].

Santa Maria in Aracoeli's church
Its name means St.Mary by the Heaven's Altar, after the legend according to which emperor Augustus was foretold that one day on that spot an altar dedicated to God's son would be set. More likely, the name came from a corruption of arx (arce in archaic Italian, meaning a stronghold), which is also the name of the lower peak on which the building rests.
The columns that divide the aisles of the church were all taken from older building, and are all different; some of them might have belonged to the temple of Juno Moneta, which once stood here. The coffered ceiling of the church, covered with precious and colourful wooden panels, finely carved, was made to celebrate the victory by admiral Marcantonio Colonna in the battle of Lepanto, fought against the Turkish fleet in 1571. Among other important works of art, stand a chapel painted by Pinturicchio (1486), and the 13th century tombs of Luca Savelli (partly obtained out of an ancient Roman sarcophagus) and of his son Iacopo, who became pope Honorius IV (1285-87), both bearing the family coat of arms in Cosmatesque style.

In another chapel, in the transept, a small wooden figure carved in the 15th century was kept; it featured the baby Jesus, and it used to be called 'the Aracoeli Child', which has always been a very popular object of worship.
The faithful believed that the figure, which was richly dressed and adorned with jewels, had a healing power over every disease, up to the point that, in the past, an order of friars used to hold processions and carry it to the houses of sick people who suffered from any serious illness.

the Aracoeli Child
But the enormous popularity of this statue did not prevent it from being stolen, in 1994. While the original is still being sought for, a faithful replica has been made. And it keeps receiving offerings and letters from many cities, just as the old statue did, some of which are on display in the same chapel.

At the bottom of the staircase of the Aracoeli church, the demolitions for the making of the Vittoriano memorial (see further) unearthed an ancient Roman four-storey house (insula), dating to the 2nd century AD, resting at a ground level much lower than the present one. Scarce traces of a medieval church built over the house, dedicated to St.Blaise by the Market, among which a badly preserved fresco and a small belltower, mingle with the Roman remains.

the frescoes by Pinturicchio
in St.Bernardine's chapel

the Vittoriano memorial
On the northern side of the Capitolium Hill, the enormous monument that catches the attention of tourists is the Vittoriano memorial [7], built between 1885 and 1911 to honour the memory of Victor Emmanuel II, king of Italy, under whose reign the unification of the country was achieved (1870). Curiously, the first cmpetition held for the making of the monument was won by a French architect; but since it was judged inopportune that a stranger should build the father of the country's memorial, the competition was cancelled and repeated two years later, when it was won by Giuseppe Sacconi.

Acording to an architecture trend of the late 1800s (Eclectism), the monument was inspired by many different styles of the past, that were merged together, also including works in the new leading style of the age, Art Nouveau, such as the mosaics along the gallery. The several parts that form the memorial are mostly based on patriotism. Two large reclined statues at the sides of the monument's base feature the main Italian seas, the Thirrenian and the Adriatic; above them are marble groups featuring four values, Strength, Concord, Sacrifice and Law. Bronze groups rest on the huge pillars of the gate, featuring Thought and Action. Winged victories above the prows of Roman warships armed with rams stand at the sides of the staircase. At the level of the first terrace, goddess Rome on a gilded background stands at the centre of a relief representing Work and Patriotism. On the upper terrace, figures in high-relief surround the base of the huge mounted statue of the king, representing the capital cities of the Italian regions (by the time the memorial was made, they were sixteen). Above the monument rest two bronze chariots (they were set there in 1927), representing Unity and Freedom.
the groups featuring Action (right)
and, in the background, Strength

the statue of Victor Emmanuel II towers Rome's skyline
The size of the statue of Victor Emmanuel II, some fifteen metres long, are amazing; in a famous vintage photograph, the owner of the foundry where it was moulded, Giovanni Bastianelli, celebrates the making of the work together with about twenty of his partners and workmen, sitting inside the belly of the horse!
In 1921, the monument was also chosen as the seat of the Unknown Soldier tomb, a memorial where the remains of an unidentified soldier who fell in the World War I rest. The part of the monument below the statue of goddess Rome, watched over 24 hours a day by a military picket, is called Altar of the Country (a name which many wrongly address the whole Vittoriano monument with).
During the 20th century, though, the monument was strongly criticised. In first place, because it obstructs the view over the Roman Forum; it was also built using a bright white marble from Botticino (near Brescia, northern Italy), whose colour clashes with the typical shades of Rome's buldings, ranging from tan to reddish; it was not Sacconi who chose the marble (travertine should have been used, according to his project), but the prime minister in those days, Giuseppe Zanardelli, who was a native of Brescia, and hoped that in this way he would improve the economy of his own hometown.
Giovanni Bastianelli and his partners inside the horse (1911)

The project was also accused of having heavily altered the street plan of piazza Venezia and especially of the surrounding streets, as room for the new monument was made by taking down slums and buildings of historical interest alike. Among the ones that went lost are the 16th century tower of Paul III and the aerial footway resting on arches that connected it to the back of Palazzetto Venezia (see Pigna district, and There Once Was in Rome...), the ancient convent annexed to the Aracoeli church, the house of painter Giulio Romano, the one that had been dwelt by Michelangelo, and the house of Pietro da Cortona. The Vittoriano memorial was then given several mocking nicknames, such as 'the wedding cake', 'the typewriter', 'the inkpot'.
Proposals were also made to take down the whole bulky mass of marble; today, though, the memorial is an over 100 years-old monument itself, whose mixed styles may be questionable, but with rather fine details, bound to remain in place. Inside the Vittoriano, the Risorgimento Museum is arranged; other halls are used for temporary exhibitions.

By the left corner of the memorial, in the flowerbed before the Adriatic Sea fountain, are the remains of the tomb of Gaius Publicius Bibulus, an aedile (in charge for public building maintainance), who lived in the 1st century BC. The name of the owner can be read at the back of the monument, along the upper part of the base, which is still mostly interred.

the tomb of Gaius Publicius Bibulus

At the back of the Vittoriano memorial, in a small opening on the fringes of the Roman Forum, stands the oldest jail in Rome, the Tullianum, better known as Mamertine Prison [8], as it used to be called since the early Middle Ages. Some maintain that Rome's third king Tullus Hostilius had it built, whence the name, others mention the sixth king Servius Tullius, and others speculate that it might have been build by a tullus, i.e. a cistern, because a body of water filtered - and still filters today - inside the jail. It consists of two chambers, one above the other, the lower of which is the oldest. The age of its making is still uncertain; some date it from the Age of Kings (between the 8th and the 7th centuries BC), others from the 3rd century BC. Its walls are made of large blocks a variety of grey tuff, held together without mortar (opus quadratum technique). The ceiling is very low, due to the making, some time later (maybe in the 2nd century BC), of an upper level, called carcer (i.e. "prison"), whose floor plan is trapezoidal in shape. This chamber too is made of tuff blocks of two different varieties, than differ from that of the older structure. Around AD 40, the jail was lined on its outer side with travertine blocks; the eastern side of the facing is partly preserved, where the names of two consuls, Gaius Vibius Rufinus and Marcus Cocceius Nerva, can be read.
The early Tullianum (lower level) is now reachable by means of a flight of steps, but once the convicts were lowered from above, through a hole in the ceiling, which is still there. In this same chamber, war prisoners were put to death by strangling them, or by letting them starve; among the historical personages who died in the Tullianum were Jugurtha, king of Numidia (104 BC) and Vercingetorix, chieftain of the Gauls (49 BC). According to tradition, in this jail also apostles Peter and Paul were kept before their martyrdom; for this reason, sometime in the early Middle Ages the two chambers became Christian chapels. Likely by the same time, the name of the site changed into Mamertine Prison. The meaning of the name is obscure; attempts to relate this name to Mamers, the Oscan god of war (equivalent to the Roman Mars) appear very unlikely, as the Osci people were absorbed by the Roman civilization already by the age of the Samnite Wars (late 4th to early 3rd centuries BC).
Over one thousand years later, during the pontificate of Paul III, the chapels were turned into an actual church, called St.Peter by the Prison; in c.1540 it was rented to the university (i.e. the guild) of carpenters. By the end of the century, the same university sponsored the making of a new church above the jail, called St.Joseph of the Carpenters, finished in 1663. Today the latter appears raised above the ground level, but once it was accessed from the street; works conducted during the 1930s, to unearth the ancient doorway of the jail, left the church in its present position.

Right in front of this complex stands the Baroque church of Saints Luke and Martina [9], side by side with the Curia Iulia, the senators' meeting hall in the Roman Forum built under Julius Caesar. On this spot, a much earlier church, St.Martina, had been founded in the 6th century by recycling the remains of the older senators' hall, the Curia Hostilia; its full title was St.Martina in tribus foris ("by the three Fora"), referring to the nearby Roman Forum, the Forum of Caesar and that of Augustus. About one thousand years later, in 1588, Sixtus V granted the church to the Academy of St.Luke, the university (guild) of artists, whose seat in those days was a nearby building. So St.Martina's, whose dedication was then extended to St.Luke, was entirely rebuilt, raising the original floor, in order to obtain a vault where to bury the fellow members of the academy. The works carried on rather slow for almost half a century, until in 1634 the remains of the saint were found; this induced pope Urban VIII to provide funds for the workshop, enabling Pietro da Cortona to finish the church. Its floor plan is almost a Greek cross (the transept is slightly shorter). In its centre stands the main altar, with a reclining statue of St.Martina by Nicolò Menghini, and an altarpiece featuring St.Luke painting the Virgin Mary, by Antiveduto Grammatica, a late 1500s artist in whose workshop the young Caravaggio worked soon after his arrival in Rome; actually, the painting is a copy of an original subject by Raphael, which belongs to the Academy of St.Luke and is kept in its present seat, in Trevi district.
The vault has the same shape as the upper church, and a bronze altar by Pietro da Cortona; the artist strongly committed himself in the making of these works, at the point that Urban VIII allowed him to build there a chapel for his own family. Pietro da Cortona even bequeathed the church an annuity for maintainance, whose terms are inscribed in a large plaque, topped by his bust. Near the entrance of the upper church, a large marble floor plaque mentions his merits. in In the passage leading to the vault are also the tombs of the Baroque architect Girolamo Rainaldi (d.1655), and archaeologist and architect Luigi Canina (d.1856), known for the modern arrangement of Villa Borghese's gardens, and of the Roman remains along the ancient Appian Way.

Via dei Fori Imperiali, the broad thoroughfare that crosses the archaeologic area in a straight line, marks the dstrict boundary with Monti. When it was opened it was called via dell'Impero (Empire Street), and for its making, between 1924 and 1932, the whole Alexandrine district that stood there since the late 1500s was taken down, including the aforesaid Academy of St.Luke, which was moved to Palazzo Carpegna (in Trevi district, at the back of the famous fountain). In its northernmost part it boundaries the remains of the Forum of Caesar, the first of its kind to bear the name of a ruler; in order to make room enough for building it, Julius Caesar had the ancient senators' hall (Curia Hostilia) moved to a nearby spot. During these works, the senators met in a temporary curia, a hall in the Porch of Pompey, located in the Campus Martius area (now on the boundary between Pigna and Sant'Eustachio districts), where in 44 BC the dictator was stabbed.
Midway along via dei Fori Imperiali stands the church dedicated to the Saints Cosmas and Damian [10], brothers born in Syria, who had converted to the Christian religion, and were famous physicians, able to perform prodigious healings; according to tradition, they were martyrised during the reign of Diocletian. The building was founded in 527, when the Ostrogoth king Theodoric, who resided in Ravenna but was officially in charge of the city of Rome, donated to pope Felix IV the library of the Temple of Peace (which belonged to the Forum of Vespasian) and the adjacent Temple of God Romulus (the son of emperor Maxentius, worshipped as a god by his father after his untimely death at sixteen years of age), on the fringes of the Roman Forum. The pope had the two ancient halls turned into a place of Christian worship, using the Temple of Romulus as the entrance hall of the church. The dedication to Cosmas and Damian was likely chosen in opposition to the nearby Temple of Castor and Pollux, who were also brothers, but whose cult belonged to the Roman (pagan) religion. The apse was decorated with one of the earliest Byzantine mosaics in Rome, with an unusual deep cobalt blue background, still in excellent condition, yet partly restored.
As the centuries elapsed, since the surrounding ground level had considerably risen, the church ended up half buried in the damp debris.

St.Theodore (detail of the
apse mosaic, 6th century)

For this reason, around 1630 pope Urban VIII had its floor and entrance raised by over three metres (four yards), refurbishing at the same time the inside; the wooden ceiling bears his coat of arms with the three bees of the Barberini family.

the inside of the Temple of God Romulus, seen from the church
Due to these alterations, the apse appears huge, almost disproportionate to the size of the church, because it is much closer to the point of observation for which it had been originally built. So a closer look can be taken to the differences in style with the more traditional Byzantine mosaics: the images are richer in details, the faces of the personages still reveal a Roman fashion, the colours are brighter, the figures throw shades, and the toga worn by Christ is rather simple (whereas it is usually loaded with gems and symbols of authority). In 1947 the Temple of God Romulus was brought back to integrity; all the forward part of the church had to be sacrificed; actually, now the floor ends abruptly against a large window, with a view over the ancient Roman hall below, once covered by the first part of the nave.

The church also features a rare fresco of the 8th century, with one of the earliest Byzantine depictions of the Crucifiction, in which the elements suggesting majesty, typical of this style, significantly outweigh the more realistic ones suggesting martyrdom, which developed in Western art over the following centuries. Instead of being naked, Christ wears a precious cloak encrusted with gems, and a royal crown instead of the classical crown of thorns; furthermore, his feet are not nailed to the cross, but rest on the ground, and his expression is not suffering, but solemn and hieratic. There is no view in the background, but a red disk with a flower texture and a golden rim.

Over the Velia Hill, which forms the southernmost stretch of the Roman Forum, stands the church of Santa Francesca Romana [11], founded in the 10th century, not far from the Basilica of Maxentius. Its original title was Santa Maria Nova (New St.Mary's), so to distinguish it from another St.Mary's church located on the opposite side of the Forum, of earlier age, thus known as Santa Maria Antiqua (Old St.Mary's). From the latter comes an ancient painting dating from the 5th century, kept in Santa Francesca Romana.

Crucifiction (8th century),
in Saints Cosmas and Damian's

apse mosaic in Santa Francesca Romana's (mid 12th century)
The church was rebuilt in the 13th century, and then turned into its present Baroque style between the late 1500s and the early 1600s. Shortly later, its title changed into that of Francesca Romana, who was buried in this church in 1440, but was officially proclaimed saint no sooner than 1638.
By tradition, the church stands on the spot where Simon Magus challenged apostles Peter and Paul, levitating in front of them as a demonstration of his greater powers; but the two, by knealing down and praying, caused the heretic to fall to the ground and die. A marble slab on display in the transept bears prints that, according to the legend, were left by the knees of the two apostles.
Santa Francesca Romana's features several works of art that span over twelve centuries of history: from the aforesaid Byzantine image of the 5th century, kept in the sacristy, to the crypt below the main altar, drawn by Gianlorenzo Bernini to hold the remains of the saint (since 1869 they are on display in a glass box). But other remarkable ones are the apse mosaic, a Virgin Mary and Child among saints, dating to the mid 12th century, the tomb of cardinal Marino Bulcani (or Vulcani, d.1394) decorated with allegories of the three Theological Virtues, a fresco of the Doctors of the Church in the first chapel on the right, attributed to Melozzo da Forlì or his school (c.1490), the portrait of Paolo III and that of cardinal Reginald Pole, above the sacristy door, maybe by Perin del Vaga (one of Raphael's pupils, c.1540), just to mention the most interesting.

the tomb of cardinal Marino Bulcani (1394) →
St.Francesca Romana is now held as co-patron of Rome, together with Peter and Paul, and is also the saint patron of vehicle drivers; for this reason, on March 9 (the saint's own day), in the morning, a crowd of cars gathers nearby the church, to receive a special blessing.

The Velia Hill once stretched much further towards the east and, during the Imperial Age, it separated the Forum of Vespasian from the Flavian Amphitheatre, i.e. the Colosseum. It was flattened by the aforesaid works for the making of via dei Fori Imperiali. The story and a description of the Colosseum can be found in the Miscellaneous section.

Near the Colosseum, at the very beginning of the present via di San Gregorio, stands another famous monument, the Arch of Constantine [12], built as a celebration of his victory in the battle of Milvius Bridge (AD 312), in a clash for the imperial crown against his rival Maxentius, who was trying to overthrow him.

Arch of Constantine (southern side)
The arch was finished some time later, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Constantine's reign, or maybe the twentieth. Its shape seems to have been inspired by the Arch of Septimius Severus (at the opposite end of the Roman Forum); it is mostly decorated with statues and reliefs taken from preexisting monuments of the 2nd century, in particular from the age of Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, probably to suggest a continuity with the reign of three of the so-called 'five good emperors'. During the 12th century, the arch ended up enclosed in the huge fortress of the Frangipane family (as well as a part of the Colosseum and the nearby Arch of Titus, at the bottom of the Roman Forum). In 1530, under the pontificate of Clement VII, one of the pope's cousins, Lorenzo Medici, defaced the statues at the base of the monument, cutting their heads, and was therefore driven out of Rome. In the 1700s, the arch received its first restoration works, but no sooner than the early 1800s it was freed from the medieval structures built over it.
On the occasion of Rome's Olympic Games, in 1960, the monument was given once again, yet for a very short time, its original purpose of triumphal arch, as the finishing line of the marathon race was set there.

On one side of the Arch of Constantine, a sloping stretch of original Roman cobblestone paving leads towards the Arch of Titus, where the Via Sacra (Sacred Road) started, the street that religious ceremonies followed crossing the Roman Forum, as they moved towards the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. According to tradition, some of Rome's seven kings chose to dwell along this street, namely Numa Pompilius, Ancus Marcius and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.
From the arch, following the street of the left, which climbs towards the church of San Bonaventura (1675), midway stands another church dedicated to St.Sebastian [13], with an annexed monastery; according to tradition, it was built on the spot where the martyr was tied and shot with arrows many times in non-vital parts of his body. Its foundation dates to the 10th century, an age consistent with the scarce traces of fresco paintings in the apse, and two inscriptions; but it was entirely rebuilt in 1626, when Urban VIII purchased the ground where it stands, a large artificial terrace raised during the Flavian dynasty (end of the 1st century AD) at the back of the imperial palaces, which therefore became the Barberini Vineyard (blue area in Nolli's map, previously shown). Inside these grounds, on one side of the church, are the foundations of a temple; it has been identified as that of Helagabalus (c.220), which the emperor dedicated to himself, being the high priest of the Sol Invictus, the solar cult from Syria that he tried to spread in Rome.

Once back at the bottom of the hill, following via di San Gregorio, which marks the district boundary along the valley between the Palatine and Caelian Hills, the street crosses a fragment of Arcus Caelimontani [14], the aqueduct that carried water to the imperial palaces (see the Acqueducts monograph), followed by the spot where once the Septizonium stood (see There Once Was In Rome... section), taken down at the end of the 1500s. Then, Campitelli's boundary turns right, along via dei Cerchi, following one side of the Circus Maximus area (Ripa district), along the base of the Palatine Hill.

Via di San Teodoro is named after another very ancient church, St.Theodore [15], founded in the 6th century, round in shape because likely built over the remains of a temple with a circular floor plan. Its apse still features a mosaic of the same age, but the church was mostly rebuilt in the mid 1400s, and then once again in the early 1700s. Tradition holds that the Capitoline Wolf (the famous Etruscan statue cast in bronze, now in the Capitoline Museums) was kept in the church for a certain time; previously, at least since the 10th century, it was located by the Lateran Palace, until in 1471 Sixtus IV donated it to the city of Rome (see also the Miscellaneous section). Since 2004, St.Theodore by the Palatine is a Greek Orthodox church.

Via dei Fienili leads to the valley called Velabrum, whose most significant remains are described in the page about Ripa district, between the Palatine Hill and the Capitolium Hill. The southern side of the latter comes into view; it has the shape of a steep and irregular cliff, which goes under the name of Tarpeian Rock [16]. In Rome's early days, up to the 1st century, the convicts sentenced to death for treason were tumbled down from above the rock. It was a rather archaic form of punishment, which representend a symbolic expulsion from Rome. Its name is bound to Tarpea, or Tarpeia, the daughter of the Capitol Hill's warden, who in the 8th century BC betraid her people out of greed. She revealed to the Sabines, at war with Rome, how to sieze the top of the Capitolium, having made a deal with them, by which they would give her in reward what they wore on their arm. Actually, the Sabines wore a golden armband on their left arm. But when the girl showed up, asking for what had been promised to her, they crushed her to death with their heavy shields, which they, in fact, wore on the other arm.

Tarpea, in the centre, killed with shields by the Sabine soldiers, in a relief from
the Basilica Emilia (Roman Forum); right, the Tarpeian Rock, named after her →
The square overlooked by the Tarpeian Rock bears the name of the church of St.Mary of Consolation [17], built around 1470, then rebuilt by the end of the following century, on a project by Martino Longhi the Elder; it was managed by group of aristocratic families. Inside, it features minor works of some important authors, among whom Antoniazzo Romano, Raffaello da Montelupo, Taddeo Zuccari and Pomarancio.
Up to the late 1800s, at the back of the church, where now the Municipality's bureaus stand, was a hospital with an annexed cemetery, managed by the Congregation of St.Mary by the Porch of Consolation and Mercy. The origin of such name, as well as that of the church's title, is bound to a double anecdote, described in the Curious and Unusual section, in the paragraph about the aforesaid congregation.

the columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus
Vico Jugario, corresponding to the ancient Roman street (vicus Iugarius) that connected the Roman Forum to the Forum Holitorium (see Ripa district), by the remains of a porch dating back to the I century BC meets the broad via del Teatro di Marcello, which climbs towards piazza Venezia, bordering the Capitolium Hill. By the corner, stands a medieval house with a tower, restored with fragments from a nearby similar one, no longer there.
On the opposite side of the street, immediately after the remains of the Theatre of Marcellus (Sant'Angelo district) are the three tall surviving columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus [18], founded in 431 BC, but rebuilt several times over the following centuries, up to its ultimate version, in c.30 BC, by a high officer called Gaius Sosius. The columns were set in their present position in 1940.
In the same year, the nearby church of St.Rita from Cascia in Campitelli was rebuilt in its present location; it partly rests on the podium of another no longer extant temple, dedicated to war goddess Bellona. The church was first built in 1665, over the older St.Blaise by the Market's, by the staircase of Santa Maria in Aracoeli's (previously described); in 1928 it was disassembled, during the works for the making of via del Teatro di Marcello (then called via del Mare). On its new spot, Santa Rita's was no longer consacrated, and today it acts as a place for meetings and concerts.

On the same side of the street, immediately after the church stands the monastery of Tor de' Specchi [19], from the first half of the 15th century, where the aforementioned Francesca Romana spent her last years of life as an abbess. The monastery was named after a more ancient medieval tower that belongs to the complex, whose etymology is obscure, built in turn on some Roman remains. It is open to the public only few days over the year, on the saint's day, March 9, and, sometimes, on one or two following Sundays. Two halls of the monastery are covered with beautiful fresco paintings from the second half of the 1400s, very well preserved, partly attributed to Antoniazzo Romano, featuring several facts of the saint's life; for further details, see The Ancestors of Rome's Dialect.
the monastery of Tor de' Specchi

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