In Roman times this hill was called the Capitoline Hill, the smallest of Rome's 7 hills and, right from the beginning, the center of their religion. Its height and its steep sides made it an impregnable citadel. The two peaks that formed the hill, the Arx and the Capitolium, were separated by the Asylum which corresponds to today's piazza.In the Middle Ages, this had already become the center of the city's political life with the erection here of the Palazzo Senatorio and the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The piazza, as you see it today, is the work of Michelangelo, following the orders of Pope Paul III. This Pope inherited a city reeling from the terrible sacking of 1527 and he wished to send a message of strength to the Holy Roman Emperor who had returned to Rome after a victorious crusade. At the same time he wanted to use this symbolic place as a means of asserting his position over the city itself. Michelangelo's grandiose plan for the piazza was not completed until 1940 when the paving stones were laid down. As you go up his monumental flight of steps, the Cordonata, the extraordinary scenario unfolds before your eyes. The side buildings take on the role of the wings of a stage while the Palazzo Senatorio, the symbol of the city's institutions, provides the backdrop to the undisputed main actor of this stage - the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center of the piazza. This is the one equestrian statue in existence from Imperial Rome. As the emperor turns his back on the Roman forums and looks toward the Vatican, the positioning of the statue confirms the passing of imperial power to the papacy. Today, the Palazzo Senatorio is Rome's City Hall. The other buildings – the Palazzo Dei Conservatori, on the right, and the Palazzo Nuovo, on the left- house the Capitoline Museums, an immense collection of artwork initiated by Pope Sixtus IV when he gave , among other pieces, the famous Lupa, statue of the she-wolf and symbol of Rome.