Home » travel » Postcards from Italy: Campidoglio

Postcards from Italy: Campidoglio

220px-Campidoglio_RomaCampidoglio (Capitoline Hill) is the site where the Sabines eventually settled after the bachelors of Rome hauled them away from their homeland. Apparently Romulus wasn’t thinking very far ahead when he settled Rome; he forgot to bring along the womenfolk. So off the Roman men went to Sabine to find some. Next thing you know Here Come the Brides. Actually, Romulus was quite the gentleman. After the abduction, he apologized to the gals for any rough treatment they received. In the end he asked for forgiveness and invited them to marry the abductors. And that was the rape of the Sabine women according to Wikipedia.

I have no idea if all that’s true. I’m not even sure Romulus and Remus were real people. They were supposedly sired by the god Mars, so I’ll have to take their existence on faith.

Campidoglio is famous not just for the story of the Sabine women, but also because back in the 16th Century Michelangelo was commissioned to redesign the plaza. Interestingly, the signature pavement pattern was never completed in Michelangelo’s time. Apparently the Vatican did not approve of the possible pagan meanings of his twelve-pointed star. It wasn’t until Benito Mussolini ordered the completion of Michelangelo’s design did Campidoglio take on the characteristic look it is known for today.

I wanted to photograph something besides the ground, the statue of Marcus Aurelius, or the basaltic lions guarding the Cordonata that are the usual subjects for tourists. I photographed the missing women instead.

The front of the Museo Capitolini on the square’s left flank is draped with three strange banners that depict the faces of women. I didn’t recognize their names, but the display looked like something Amnesty International would be involved in, so I was curious. I snapped some photos and planned to track down the story later.

When I got home I discovered only one name was legible: Emanuela Orlandi. A quick Google reveals she  disappeared from her home in Vatican City in 1983. No one has seen her since. Most people assume foul play, but her fate is wholly unknown. Several theories have been posited, and in true Italian fashion each one is more lurid than the next.

The intriguing story has been kept alive all these years. Everyone likes a mystery and if tragedy is suspected so much the better. If I’m correctly reading a news article I came across on Emanuala Orlandi, there has recently been a procession in her honor in the campo. I couldn’t get any details though.

I assume there are stories that go with the other two women in the banners as well. Unfortunately, until I go back to Campidoglio and take better notes they will have to remain even more mysterious than Emanuela Orlandi.

At any rate the tragedy of the original Sabine women goes on.

Sue Lange



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