San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) was built during the fifth century to house the relic of Saint Peter’s chains when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. The church is also renowned because it houses Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.
Origins of the Basilica
According to legend, the Empress Eudoxia gave Pope Leo I the chains with which Saint Peter had been shackled in Jerusalem as a present, and to house these, he commissioned San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica to be built. When Pope Leo I held these chains near Peter’s chains from the time he spent in Mamertime Prison in Rome
Inside San Pietro in Vincoli
The Basilica San Pietro in Vincoli is different from any other church built during the same period thanks to its simplicity and scarce decoration. Under the main altar is the reliquary in which the chains of Saint Peter, the church’s most important element, are kept.
Another impressive part of the church is the mausoleum of Pope Julius II, made up by Michelangelo’s striking statue of Moses, designed between 1505 and 1515. The mausoleum is dimly lit until one of the visitors makes a donation and it lights up, something which is done throughout most of the churches in Rome.
Among the small altars found on both sides of the church, we recommend taking a close look at those found on the left hand side. Visitors will see frescoes depicting skeletons and other images which are not very commonly shown in Catholic churches.
Well worth visiting
The Basilica San Pietro in Vincoli is well worth visiting not only because of its unique decoration and Michelangelo’s massive statue of Moses, but because it is unlike any other Roman church.