Mausoleum (Tomb) of Caecilia Metella/ Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella

"Mausoleum (Tomb) of Caecilia Metella/ Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Saturday 16th July 2011

Mausoleum (Tomb) of Caecilia Metella/ Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella

The Mausoleum (Tomb) of Caecilia Metella/ Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella is one of the most famous monuments situated on the Via Appia. The mausoleum was built at the third mile of the Appian Way in the years 30-20 BCE, on a dominant position overlooking the road, just at the point of arrestation of a leucite lava flow ejected 260,000 years ago from the Alban Hills volcanic complex.

It is a monumental tomb erected for a Roman noblewoman whose degrees of kinship are known, albeit only partially, thanks to the inscription, still preserved. It consists of a cylinder covered with travertine slabs, having the upper part decorated with a marble frieze representing festoons and oxen's heads, all resting on an imposing square pedestal.

The presence of the reliefs of oxen's heads accounts for the name of "Capo di Bove" (Head of Ox) used to indicate the area in the Middle Ages. Above the entrance there is an inscription with the name of the owner of the tomb, Caecilia Metella, daughter of Quintus Metellus Creticus, the consul that conquered the Island of Crete in the year 67 B.C.. The mausoleum can be dated back to the end of the first century B.C., although it was probably used at least up to the second century A.D.. During the Middle Ages the large tomb became an important checkpoint on the Via Appia, so that in the eleventh century it was incorporated into the fortifications of a castle built by the Counts of Tuscolo.

The sepulcher had a cone of earth over it originally, like that on Augustus’ mausoleum, which was still present in the eleventh century when it became the property of the Tuscolo Counts and incorporated in their fortified village. The funeral cell is a round room tiled with laterite brickwork, which rises to the ceiling: it contained the urn with her ashes, probably removed in very early times. The castrum, which extended over both sides of the Appia Antica was designed to control the traffic in and out of Rome. After the Caetani ownership of Capo di Bove passed to the Savelli, Colonna and Orsini families.

In 1299 Pope Boniface the Eighth transformed the castle into a real fortified citadel surrounded by a battlemented wall with rectangular towers, including also a church dedicated to San Nicola. The spot where Cecilia was buried is a fine example of brick dome-making. Downstairs, pieces of the volcanic rock used in the construction of the ancient road can be seen. In the course of time the ancient mausoleum became the main tower of a fortified village that belonged to the most powerful Roman families. Beyond the tomb is a picturesque section of the actual ancient road, excavated in the mid-19th century.

Today the summit of the mausoleum is crowned by an extra storey in brickwork of small peperino blocks which retains the Ghibelline battlements relevant to the modifications carried out by the Caetani family in order to transform the sepulcher into the keep of their castle, subsequently enclosed in the larger Castrum Caetani (Caetani Castle). Vast, cylindrical and turret-like, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is visible from around Via Appia. Mausoleum (Tomb) of Caecilia Metella/ Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella is managed by: Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma.

Practical Information:

Via Appia Antica, 161
00179, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Quartiere Appio Latino/ Quartiere Appio Pignatelli / Quartiere Appio Pignatelli / Quartiere Tuscolano [South Rome (Roma sud)]
Mausoleum (Tomb) of Caecilia Metella/ Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella is Shown By "Map K Zone" As "92"
Public Transportation: Getting to Appian Way (Via Appia Antica)
Hours: Open every day from 9.00 to 16.30. Closed Mondays (except Easter Monday), 25 December, 1 January. The ticket office closes one hour before closing time.

Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma Website:
Also See: Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) - A Walk In The Ancient Rome Through Appia Antica Park

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