A renowned statue of Marcus Aurelius, considered a symbol of Rome, has found a permanent home after 26 years of wandering .
The massive equestrian bronze will be on view starting next Thursday in a special glassed-in section of the Villa Caffarelli gardens on the Capitoline Hill, designed by the architect Carlo Aymonino .
"Aymonino's project beautifully blends both old and new, creating a stunning sight for everyone," said Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, at the opening ceremony for the new museum wing which will house the statue .
The statue was removed from its longstanding place of honour at the centre of Michelangelo's Campidoglio Square following an attack in 1979. Combined with the effects of pollution, this convinced authorities that the national treasure would need a more permanent form of protection .
A nine-year restoration returned it to its former condition but it was decided to replace the original with a perfect bronze replica .
The original was moved to the Capitoline Museums, just a few steps away from Campidoglio Square, as a temporary measure in 1990 .
There was initial uncertainty over where it should be placed, and for a while, authorities considered using both the original and the replica in the square in alternating shifts .
But in the mid-1990s, Rome city council decided to extend the Capitoline Museums, which house many of Rome's treasured antiquities, by glassing in the neighbouring garden .
"This investment is helping make the Capitoline Museums lovelier than they've ever been before," remarked Veltroni, explaining that the new section extends the museum space by a third to 11,000 metres .
As well as providing a home for the statue, which is housed in a climate-controlled, bright and airy central room, the construction produced a surprise bonus: the discovery of the remains of an enormous temple dedicated to Jupiter, dating back to the 6th century AD .
The careful excavation work, which considerably lengthened the planned construction times, has revealed that the temple was built at the order of Rome's fifth king, Tarquinius Priscus (617-579 BC) .
In ancient times, the Romans would carry out rituals at the temple before setting off on wars. This was also where triumphal processions concluded .
At the presentation of his work, Aymonino explained that he had modified his original design for the glass room to include a seven-metre stretch of the temple's original wall .
In its heyday, the temple walls stretched for 60 metres by 52 metres, and housed sanctuaries for Jupiter, Juno and Minerva .
The statue, which dates back to the latter part of Marcus Aurelius's reign (161-180 AD) is considered particularly valuable as it is the only large bronze work to survive from this period .
Archaeologists believe it was spared during the Middle Ages as it was mistakenly thought to represent the Christian emperor, Constantine .
Marcus Aurelius Antonius (121-180 AD) came to the throne in 161 AD and was the last of the 'five good emperors' in the two-century period of Roman peace. He was also a stoic philosopher and is remembered for his work written in Greek 'Meditations' .
When Marcus Aurelius died of the plague in 180 AD, the throne was handed over to his son Commodus .