After the fall of Rome in the fifth century
AD, the Italian peninsula was divided into separate kingdoms and states that
were under the control of various monarchs and popes. In 1861, the separate kingdoms
and states were united into a single Kingdom
of Italy after a movement
for unification known as the Risorgimento
(Italian for “Resurgence”). The first king of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy was Victor Emmanuel II, who
reigned from 1861 until his death in 1878. He is referred to by Italians as the
Padre della Patria (Italian for
“Father of the Fatherland”).
Shortly after the
king’s death in 1878, the Italian Parliament commissioned a project to
construct a national monument to commemorate both the king and the unification
The monument was designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885 and
created by sculptors from all over Italy. It was inaugurated in 1911 on the fiftieth
anniversary of the unification of Italy and finally completed in
At the front of the
monument, to the left and right of the stairs, are two tall marble bases
supporting two large bronze sculptures which represent virtues of the Italian
people. The sculpture on the left represents the virtue of “Thought”
and the sculpture on the right represents the virtue of “Action”.
At the top of the main
staircase is a large landing with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and two eternal
flames, which were added to the monument in 1921 after World War I. The tomb is
guarded at all times by two soldiers.
Above the Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier is a statue of the goddess Roma. To the left of the statue of
Roma is a sculptural relief depicting the “Triumph of Patriotism”. To
the right of the statue of Roma is a sculptural relief depicting the “Triumph
of Labor”. Above the statue of Roma is a bronze equestrian statue of King
Victor Emmanuel II supported by a marble pedastal which features 14 statues
representing Italian cities that were capitals and maritime republics.
At the left and right
sides of the monument’s roof are two large bronze statues of winged Victories
(goddesses of victory) riding in quadrigas (chariots drawn by four horses).
Below the roof is a
central porticus (covered walkway supported by columns) with 16 columns and above
each column is a statue representing a region of Italy that existed at the time the
monument was created. The 16 statues were created by a sculptor from the region
that the statue represents.
To the left and right
of the central porticus are two structures resembling Roman temples. The top of
the left structure bears the the Latin inscription “PATRIAE UNITATI”
(“Unity of the Homeland”) and the top of the right structure bears
the inscription “CIVIUM LIBERTATI” (“To the Freedom of Citizens”).
Located inside the monument is the Museum of the
Risorgimento. This small historical and military museum contains a vast
collection of items related to the unification of Italy in 1861 and the events of
World War I. The museum’s collection includes paintings, sculptures, military
uniforms and weapons as well as various items of historical memorabilia.
On the rooftop of the
monument is an observation deck which offers visitors a 360-degree view over
the city of Rome
including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine
Hill and Imperial Forums. The
domes of the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica can also be seen from here. The
observation deck is open daily (excluding some holidays) and has an entrance
fee (see “Visitor Information” above).