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Fountain of Rome's Goddess of Piazza del Campidoglio
The fountain of Dea Roma (Goddess Roma) decorates the facade of Palazzo Senatorio, the historical palace built on the ruins of the tabularium (first century BC) and convergence point of the marvellous square designed by Michelangelo, limited on the right by Palazzo dei Conservatori and on the left by Palazzo Nuovo.
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The only element of the palace by Michelangelo consists of the monumental stairway that leads to the Senatorial Room, built between 1547 and 1554. The external facade is decorated with a very high central niche (14 feet high) with pairs of supporting pilasters on its sides. In the original project the niche was supposed to be occupied by a Juppiter that was then replaced with a huge standing statue of Minerva that had been placed at the time of Paul the Third Farnese (1534-1549) in the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Matteo di Bartolo from Città di Castello was assigned the task of building a fountain in 1588, after the Acqua Felice was brought to the Capitol Hill. He designed a fountain with two Greek marble ponds one on top of the other leaning against the stairway. In 1593 at the time of Clement the Eighth Aldobrandini (1592-1605) a porphyry sitting statue of the Domitian age representing Minerva and later transformed into Goddess Roma was placed within the niche.
The small size statue rests on a triple base and is flanked by a pair of barbarians probably made of stucco that were placed in the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori in 1720. On the sides of the niche in the panels of the stairway, Michelangelo placed two colossal statues of rivers (almost 15 feet long) sculpted in the second century AD and coming from the thermae of Constantine on the Quirinal Hill.
On the left is the Nile with a cornucopia, symbol of fertility, and a sphinx. On the right is the Tiber flanked by a tiger that was later changed into a she-wolf and the twins. This statue originally represented the Tigris and the characteristic attributes of the Tiber river were added only in the sixteenth century.
Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome
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