Via Cavour: starting out from the Fora, about halfway along Via Cavour we come across the steep steps of via San Francesco di Paola. Uninviting as it is, this narrow, damp stepway leads up to a surprisingly charming and peaceful square, Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, dominated by the sixteenth century façade of the Church of the same name.

The Church was founded in the fifth century by the Empress, Eudossia, in order to host a precious relic, the chain with which St Peter’s body was bound when a prisoner in Jerusalem. The construction was rebuilt in the thirteenth century. Further work was carried out in the sixteenth century (the façade and arcade) and in the eighteenth century (the interior). The relic has remained at all times where it had been originally placed. To this day, it lies under the main altar and is shown to the faithful on 1 August every year.

However, the Church is most widely known not for its chain but for a masterpiece of art. Since 1545, in the right transept, the Church has hosted a key work of sixteenth-century art − Michelangelo’s Moses.

The statue was sculpted in 1513 to adorn the funereal monument commissioned by Julius II from Buonarroti. Buonarroti had designed a magnificent architectural and sculptural complex, but he had to interrupt work on this site since the Pope’s energies were by now dedicated solely to reconstruction of St Peter’s basilica. The mausoleum idea was, in effect, shelved. Michelangelo was sorely disappointed, and came to regard the affair as his “tragedia della sepoltura” (tragedy of the burial).

Now that the great architectural idea had to be abandoned, the sculpture was finished after Julius II’s death.

The prophet who comes down from Mount Sinai with the Tables of the Law is a majestic work. It also inspires a sense of awe. He arrives to find the Israelites adoring a Calf of Gold. The veins and muscles seem to convey a sense of movement in the sculpture, and an impression of Moses’ fury at what he saw. Moses’ face portrays solemnity and ire.

Address

Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/A

Email: basilicasanpietroinvincoli@hotmail.com

Fax: +39 06 97844985

Telephone: +39 06 97844950 - 06 97844952

Hours

April-September: 8.00 am - 12.30 pm and 3.00 pm - 7.00 pm;
October-March: 8.00 am - 12.30 pm and 3.00 pm - 6.00 pm.