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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Michelangelo's magnificent Moses in Rome

Rome's S. Pietro in Vincoli hosts the chains of St Peter as well as Michelangelo's Moses.

The church of S. Pietro in Vincoli, known in English as St Peter in Chains, is a minor basilica hidden away in Rome's Monti quarter, not far from the Colosseum.

The church takes its name from an important relic: the chains said to have bound St Peter in Jerusalem and Rome, presented as a gift to Pope Leo I by Empress Eudoxia in the fifth century.

According to legend, when Leo compared the chains to those used in St Peter's final imprisonment in Rome's Mamertine Prison, the two chains fused together miraculously.

Today the chains can be viewed in a reliquary under the main altar of the church.

The reliquary containing the chains of St Peter. Photo: stoyanh /

The main draw for many visitors to the church, however, is a magnificent marble statue of Moses, carved by the Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1515.

The imposing sculpture of the biblical figure was commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb and was initially intended to be one of more than 40 statues as part of a three-level tomb in St Peter's Basilica.

Work on the grandiose tomb was stalled however, partly due to Michelangelo's undertaking of the Sistine Chapel, and the project's scale was gradually reduced to a wall tomb, housed in its current location.

The statue of Moses, depicted with horns on his head, stands alongside several other figures, possibly completed by Michelangelo's assistants.

Hailing the statue of Moses as "unequalled in any modern of ancient work", Giorgio Vasari wrote that Michelangelo's "iron chisel must have become a brush."

It is said that Michelangelo himself viewed his statue of the bearded Moses as his most lifelike creation.

Where to find Michelangelo's Moses

The church of St Peter in Chains can be reached via the steep Scalinata di Borgia near the Cavour metro stop on Metro B underground line, just off Via Cavour, up the street from the Roman Forum.

Cover photo: Anna Pakutina /

General Info

Address Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

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Michelangelo's magnificent Moses in Rome

Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

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