The Mistery of The Statue of Marcus Aurelius

A Spasso con Sara to discover the famous legend of “Marc’Urelio discovers in gold”.


At the center of the complex interweaving of lines designed by the genius of Michelangelo (but made only in 1940), the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius dominates the Piazza del Campidoglio and is among the symbols of the City of Rome.


The Marcus Aurelius in the centre of Piazza del Campidoglio. View from above (Credits:


As many of you know, the statue we can admire today in the square is a bronze copy made in 1997. The original monument, after a long and careful restoration, is in fact inside the Capitoline Museums (exactly in the Roman Garden on the first floor of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, whose entrance is right on Piazza del Campidoglio).

The original statue of Marcus Aurelius photographed inside the Roman Garden of the Capitoline Museums.

Rivers of ink have been spent on this emperor on horseback, whose solemnity seems to echo until today. To get an idea of its exceptionality, you need only know that it is the only equestrian statue among those of the Forum that was saved from destruction to be transferred to the Lateran to represent Constantine. This bronze, in fact, in the wake of that new trend of “recycling” that was establishing itself in the art of the time (think of the arch of Constantine that assembles parts and decorations from monuments of previous emperors), was considered suitable to represent the first Christian emperor who had built the current church of St. John, the Cathedral of Rome, in the area of the Lateran.


Small representation of the Lateran Patraiarch with the statue of Marcus Aurelius / Constantine (Credits:


Marcus Aurelius / Constantine was “parked” at the Lateran until the sixteenth century, when he was transferred to the Capitol. And so, that wonderful gilded bronze statue and that tuft of horse hair, similar to an owl perched between the ears of the animal, became the subject of a famous legend that would link the Marcus Aurelius to the Apocalypse.

It is said, in fact, that the statue will gradually return golden and that when this happens, the “owl” will sing and fly away, announcing the end of the world. From this popular rumour derives the expression, no longer used, “discovered in gold as Marcurelius”, which would mean “to be at the end”.
Truth or lie, this simple story shows us how Rome over the centuries, and in part still today, continues to be the most mysterious city in the world!


The famous “owl” placed between the ears of the horse of Marcus Aurelius (Credits:


Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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