The west side of the Roman Forum in Rome is bordered by a huge building, the lower part of which looks a lot older than the top. This is the back of the Palazzo Senatorio and the bottom of it is the ancient Roman Tabularium, where the public archives of the state used to be kept. Today it is part of the Capitoline Museums.
The address of the Tabularium is Via di San Pietro in Carcere – Rome. The opening hours and entrance price are those of the Capitoline Museums.
History and description
The Tabularium was located on the lower part between the two hilltops (the Arx and the Capitolium) of the Capitol, which used to be called Asylum. It was built in 78 BC by the architect Lucio Cornelio on behalf of Consul Quinto Lutazio Catulo. The latter had been given the responsibility by the state to reconstruct those buildings that had been destroyed by fire in 83 BC.
The bronze tabulae on which the Roman laws and decrees were recorded were kept here.
The foundation of the building is 73.60 meters wide and is made of regular blocks of the volcanic tuff and peperino stones. Originally there was an entrance in the foundation, but this was closed off by the podium of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. This entrance led via a staircase to some rooms, which were used as a prison during the Middle Ages.
The hall above these rooms was divided into several parts,. Each sector was covered by a vault and opened onto the outside by an arch with Doric half columns of peperino stone. The capitals and architraves were of made of tuff stone. Only three of the ten rooms are still visible. The existence of the other rooms can be deduced from traces on the wall, where the columns used to be attached. During the Middle Ages, these rooms were used to store salt.
A frieze decorated with triglyphs and metopes separates this hall from the one above, which is characterized by another portico with Corinthian columns of travertine marble. Fragments of these columns, found at the foot of the facade, are now displayed in front of the Portico degli Dei Consenti.
There were no other rooms behind these hallways. The remaining space was entirely occupied by the massive foundation. From this lack of space one can also conclude that the actual Tabularium was one floor higher.
Castle and towers
In the late Middle Ages the Tabularium was used as a castle by the aristocratic Corsi family.
In the 12th century the building became the seat of the town hall and was turned into a kind of castle, with battlements and watchtowers. Between 1393 and 1453 the towers of Boniface IX, Martin V and Niccolò V were added. The tower on the right side of the facade bears the coat of arms of this last pope.
In 1536 Michelangelo redesigned the entire Piazza del Campidoglio. One of his main changes was to turn the side facing the piazza into the main facade.
Temple of Veiovis
The corner on the south-east side recedes slightly as this is where the Temple of Veiovis used to be. This temple was constructed in 192 BC and restored in the 1st century BC by Emperor Domitian. It was discovered by accident in 1939 during construction of a corridor under the Piazza del Campidoglio. Some parts of the temple can still be seen in the corridor of the Tabularium. The cell was wider than it was deep, due to lack of space. In front of it was a pronaos with four columns. The large statue of Veiovis (an Italic God of the underworld, comparable to the later Jupiter), without head and hands, is on display in the Galleria Lapidaria of the Capitoline Museums.