The Capitoline Hill (Mons Capitolinus) is the smallest hill with two peaks among seven historic hills of Rome. It is located north-west of the Forum Romanum and the Palatine Hill.
The name comes from a human skull (lat. caput means "head") found during laying the fundations for the main temple. It is thought that the Latins settling down on the Palatine Hill and the Sabins on the Quirinal Hill, have chosen the Capitoline Hill as the place of elevation in the northern top of the castle, whereas in the southern of the main temple.
In the ancient times the Capitoline Hill used to be a religious centre of Rome. There were located the main centres of the religious cult such as the Temple of Jupiter. Here ends the main road of Rome, Via Sacra. On the hill, there were kept the Sybylline Books (containing pieces of advice useful during problematic periods of the city). Newly chosen emperors were making offerings to gods to secure fortune and public support. On the hill, there were also located temples of the Venus Ericina, the Fides Publica and the Juno Moneta where the first Roman mint was located (what is the cause of the current name). At the foot of the hill there was the Tabularium (city's archives) in the place the Senator's palace is located today. The Tarpeian Rock of The Capitoline Hill was a place of public executions during the Roman Republic.
The ancient buildings of the Capitoline Hill was totally demolished by many fires. The Hill was no longer able to regain its previous dominant position in the urbanism of Rome. In the 6th century the church Santa Maria i Capitolio was erected here which was possession of the Benedictines since the 10th century. They built their abbey in that place. In the 13th century it was renamed to the temple of Santa Miaria in Aracoeli. It is a basilica with original ancient columns which divide it into three naves. The most important figure is Santo Bambino - Infant Jesus.
In 1536 Michelangelo designed a square which was supposed to be a new way to develop the area. The square was of a regular trapezoid shape where all of the buildings were designed or rebuilt in a similar manner. After the death of Michelangelo the project was taken over by Giacomo della Porta and Girolamo Rainaldi. The works were finished in the end of the 17th century. The square is laid with a sett which creates a light star on the dark background. In the centre of it the monument of Marcus Aurelius is situated.
One can climb the hill using stairs, so called Cordonata, designed by Michelangelo and leading to the Capitoline Palace. The first segment is guarded by two lions made of black basalt, whereas in the middle there is a statue of Coli di Rienzo who was murdered in that place in 1354. Upstairs sculptures of Dioskurs are placed - Castor and Pollux. The Palazzo Nuove was built to the north from the palace creating a closure from this side. Nowadays there is the Capitoline Museum. Since 1981 a sculpture of Marcus Aurelius was placed there, moved from the palace, where today there is only a copy. The Senator Palace, where currently the City Council is located, is merging both the baroque and the renaissance. On the stairs leading to the entrance, inside a niche between barriers, the sculpture of Minerva is located together with two lying figures, representing the Nil with a phoenix (the symbol of the Byzantine Empire) and the Tiber with a wolf (the symbol of the Western Roman Empire). From the terrace behind the palace a beautiful view can be seen.