The Capitoline Museums: the world’s oldest Museum

The Capitoline Museums: the world’s oldest Museum

The Capitoline Museums form a complex of buildings that make up the main civic museum structure of Rome. They preserve an artistic and historical heritage of immense value and are among the most famous and oldest museums in the world. 

They were called museums because, in the fourteenth century, Benedict XIV added the Pinacoteca - to the already present collection of ancient sculptures – composed of works with mainly Roman subjects. 

Officially opened to the public in 1734 during the government of Clemente XII, they are still considered the first museum in the world to be visited not only by the owners but by everyone. The historical headquarters of the Capitoline Museums are both Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Novo, both visible from the Campidoglio square. 

1471 can be considered the year in which the museum was created, when Pope Sixtus IV made a gift to the city of Rome of a precious collection of bronzes from the Lateran, including the Capitoline Wolf. This was placed in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori and in the Campidoglio square; this is why it can be defined as the oldest public museum in the world. 

One of the sculptures symbols of the Capitoline Museum is the majestic statue of Marcus Aurelius, located in the Roman garden behind the Palazzo dei Conservatori. To visit Palazzo Nuovo, you can access from the square or go through a gallery called “Galleria Lapidaria”, where a series of epigraphs are displayed, and from where you enter the Tabularium.