San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) is a minor basilica, the church of della Rovere family, on a hill 300 m north of the Colosseum.
The façade was a deception for us but worthwhile inside is the Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II (photos 2 & 3).
I will not rewrite the story of the magnificent project of the tomb of Pope Julius II with 47 statues of Carare marble; VT member Brendareed wrote here an excellent review about the ups and downs of this epic 40 years tragicomedy.
When Brenda writes that Michelangelo always considered himself to be a sculptor first, I fully agree and would like to add that he spent 8 months in Carare only to choose the blocs of marble!
Everything has been written about the "horns" of Moses resulting from a bad translation of the Hebrew "beams of light" and that horns are easier to sculpt than rays of light.
About light I would like to add that if the visitor wants to see something of Moses in this rather dark church, especially on a rainy day, he has to spend some money to put on the lights.
I have no comments about the fused chains of San Pietro (photo 4); I'm used to separate science from the legends that belong to my ancestral culture and traditions.
I was more interested by the tomb of Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini, decorated with imagery of the Grim Reaper a skeleton carrying a scythe on an altar in the left aisle (photo 1). Here he has wings so that he is "The Angel of Death".
Another tomb, also of a Church dignitary, is decorated with two expressive skeletons "Spectres of Death" (photo 5). As a child I was much impressed by the image of the Grim Reaper called in French "La Grande Faucheuse" often found in religious paintings or sculptures. I still was impressed by these tombs at San Pietro in Vincoli.
Open: 07.30 - 12.30 and 15.30 - 18.00 h. Closed around noon time!
This church was commissioned by Pope Leo I to house the chains that supposedly held St. Peter while he was imprisoned; first in Jerusalem and then in Rome. Built in the 5th century over the remains of an imperial villa, it has been restored and rebuilt several times since.
Besides the chains - which can be seen in a glass case near the high altar- the biggest reason to make a stop is to see Michelangelo's Moses. Commissioned for the lavish tomb of Pope Julius II, it was one of only two pieces completed after Julius' death before the the next Pope set the poor sculptor (who much preferred hacking away at marble to dabbling at ceilings) to work on the Sistine Chapel. The two knobs on Moses' head was a misinterpretation of the Hebrew description for the rays of light that shone from his face when he came down from the Mount. Translated to Latin, it came out as 'horns'. He looks cranky 'cause, well, there was this unfortunate incident involving a golden calf...
The church is in the same general vicinity (Esquiline) as the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which makes it convenient to give both a look-see while in the area. See this site for hours and other info:
Michelangelo always considered himself to be a sculptor first – not a painter, not an architect. And, although he managed to do all three of these extremely well, the guy really just wanted to create beautiful pieces from marble. Well, to be honest, he didn’t think he was creating – he thought the figure was already in the marble; he was just freeing it from the constraints of the stone. And one of the great goals of his life was to complete a magnificent tomb for Pope Julius II; a tomb that would contain more than 40 sculptures.
Although Pope Julius was more than willing to have such an elaborate funeral monument created for himself, he had other pressing issues – like that pesky ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and going off to war. So he would commission Michelangelo to set aside the funeral sculptures for four years to paint the ceiling. Then later, Michelangelo would again put this project aside to complete other projects. Pope Julius died and later popes didn’t agree with the magnitude of the monument, so the project was dramatically scaled back to what we have today.
Pope Julius II’s tomb is located in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli. But visitors also come to pay homage to an artist that didn’t get to finish his grand life’s work. To the right of the altar is Pope Julius II’s tomb designed by Michaelangelo, which today has only seven of the original 40 statues. It is still a magnificent work of art, just not to the scale Michelangelo had hoped for, with only three of the seven sculptures actually being completed by the artist himself – Moses, Leah, and Rachel – the rest being done by his assistants and students. There is the possibility that the effigy of Julius is also by Michelangelo, but this is disputed by the experts.
The centerpiece of the monument is Moses, one of Michelangelo’s more famous sculptures and carved in 1515. Moses is sitting down with tablets under his right arm. He gazes out to the left with a rather stern look, his long beard flowing down his chest. Often people are confused by the apparent “horns” coming out from Moses head – these are really a misinterpretation of the Scriptures, in which the words translated to ‘horns’ rather than the beams of light that are tradition in medieval iconology.
Other parts of the project can be found in Florence and at the Louvre, not quite finished, but still works of art as we see what the artist had in mind.
The Church of San Pietro in Vincoli – an odd name meaning “St. Peter in Chains.” That is because one of the primary relics in this church is the chains that supposedly were used to chain Peter in the Mamertine Prison, but the Bible tells us that an angel helped him escape. The two sets of chains were separated and, according to legend, when they were returned together, they mysteriously fused together, never to be separated again. These are the chains in the church, located at the altar. Since Peter is considered the first pope and one of Christ’s favorite apostles, this is a place where lots of visitors come.
Pope Julius II’s tomb is located in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli. But visitors also come to pay homage to an artist that didn’t get to finish his grand life’s work. To the right of the altar is Pope Julius II’s tomb designed by Michaelangelo, which today has only seven of the original 40 statues. It is still a magnificent work of art, just not to the scale Michelangelo had hoped for, with only three of the seven sculptures actually being completed by the artist himself – Moses, Leah, and Rachel – the rest being done by his assistants and students. There is the possibility that the effigy of Julius is also by Michelangelo, but this is disputed by the experts (see my separate tip about this artwork).
One more thing in this church related to Renaissance art: the tombs of Florentine artist Antonio Pollaiolo and his brother Piero can be found in San Pietro in Vincolo. The Pollaiolo brothers are memorialized with bust sculptures near the entrance door.
The outside of the church didn’t look much like a church and, if I hadn’t known what was in there, would probably have walked right past. But we purposely sought out the church (I had to see the Michelangelo!). It closes during lunch (between 12:30 and 3:00) so we patiently waited with a number of other people for the church to reopen. There are benches to sit on or the steps. Once inside, there seemed to be a mad dash to either the relic of the chains or to Pope Julius’ tomb – guess which one I went to first?
This is a minor basilica located across the street from the Coliseum. You go uphill for a bit and its right there. Has a lovely view of some of the landmarks. More than anything else, this church (basilica) is famous for having Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses.
The sculpture was supposed to be part of an ornate and substantially larger tomb for Pope Julius II, the famous "Warrior Pope." This was the same pope that was responsible for giving Michelangelo the commission to paint the Sistine Chapel and was a known generous patron of the arts. The Moses statue is amazing, (though a bit more muscular than I thought would be realistic) it is one of those situations where the stone comes to life. For me, this is a must see in Rome!
In the reliquary, and this is another big reason to see this church, are the chains that bound St Peter.
San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) is a Roman Catholic titular church and minor basilica, best known for being the home of Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.
The interior has a nave and two aisles, with three apses divided by antique Doric columns.
Michelangelo's Moses (completed in 1515), while originally intended as part of a massive 47-statue, free-standing funeral monument for Pope Julius II, became the centerpiece of the Pope's funeral monument and tomb in this, the church of della Rovere family.
Moses is depicted with horns, connoting "the radiance of the Lord", due to the similarity in the Hebrew words for "beams of light" and "horns". This kind of iconographic symbolism was common in early sacred art, and for an artist horns are easier to sculpt than rays of light.
This certainly isn't going to become a top tourist stop in Rome but it is worth looking in on if you are nearby (perhaps when going between the Roman Forum and Termini or Santa Maria Maggiore) as it's just off Via Cavour.
The church has two main attractions the chains which are claimed to be the ones St Peter was held in and a horned statue of Moses by Michelangelo.
The other great thing about this church was the fact that it felt so peaceful and cool on such a hot and busy day in Rome!
This basilica was built between 432-440 to house the relic of the chains that bound ST PETER when he was imprisoned in JERUSALEM.
The MOSES a famous sculpture by MICHELANGELO housed here depicts MOSES with horns onhis head
Our guild told us before going in that this is "a small church" - its huge inside compared to most in the states. There are a lot of interesting artwork, most gets overlooked due to the famous "Moses" by Michelangelo. Don't leave before taking a full look around at all the artwork. Also known as Saint Peter in Chains, since the relic is known as the chains that Saint Peter wore in prison while in Rome. Easy walk from the Colosseum, just up the hill. Nice little Gelato and sandwich place near by.
One of the most humbling places in Rome that's not in the Vatican is this 12th century church of St. Peter's in chains. As legend has it St. Peters woke one night to see and an angel who told him to get up and walk out of prison, when St. Peter stood the chains holding him down fell and St. Peter walked out...so those chain are here on display along side one of Michealangelo's masterpiece's... a tomb for a pope...can't remeber the name of the tomb or pope but it's amazing (see the 2nd pix), give your self about an hour here, admission is free but a donation is accepted to help maintain the church !!!!
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