The Column stands in front of the Churches of the Madonna del Loreto and of the SS. Nome di Maria, next to the ruins of the Basilica Ulpia. The set constitutes one of the most characteristic and famous sites in Rome. The monument served as the grave of the Emperor Trajan and stands on a high cubic plinth decorated with bas-reliefs. The entrance gate leads to a room where a cinerary urn that contained the Emperor’s ashes was kept.
Above the entrance a panel is supported by two Winged Victories with the inscription of a dedication to Trajan. The Column is about 98 feet in height and an internal spiral staircase leads to the top. The outside appears like an ancient book (volumen) that depicts the conquest of Dacia (the current Rumania) that was the Emperor’s largest military exploit. The story starts with the crossing of the Danube on a pontoon bridge and finishes with the deportation of the conquered Dacians.
The image of the Emperor Trajan appears at least sixty times in the scenes of the buildings of camps, sieges and speeches to the troops. The original polychromy and the insertion of metal elements both lost today rendered the vision particularly attractive. The top of the Column was crowned by a statue of Trajan that disappeared in the Middle Ages and was replaced by Pope Sixtus V with a statue of St. Peter at the end of the 16th century. The author of the monument was the so-called Maestro delle Imprese di Traiano (Master of Trajan’s Exploits).