Saturday, April 19, 2014

San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

San Pietro in Vincoli is a fifth century church built to house the chains (vincoli) with which Saint Peter was bound in Jerusalem. The chains were given to Pope Leo I, who compared them to St. Peter's chains from the Mamertine Prison. The two chains miraculously fused together. The church has been rebuilt several times but has the original Doric columns in the nave.

San Pietro in Vincoli


The ceiling fresco is the Miracle of the Chains by Giovanni Battista Parodi in 1705.

Miracle of the Chains fresco

The reliquary with the chains is right under the main altar, where they also set up the most modest nativity scene we saw in any Roman church (our Roman visit was back in early January 2014).

Main altar

J by the chains and the nativity

The nativity

The chains

The church is also known for Michelangelo's Tomb of Pope Julius II. The original plan was for a vast tomb with over 40 statues, but other projects (like St. Peter's Basilica and The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel) got in the way. Michelangelo did sculpt an amazing statue of Moses as part of the tomb.

Front view of Tomb of Pope Julius II

Moses looking at you


The statue is famous for the fineness of its working and for the two horns on Moses's head. In Hebrew, the words for "beams of light" and "horns" are very close, and naturally it's easier to sculpt horns than beams of light.

Several other grim but fascinating tombs line the church's interior walls.

Tomb with skeletons

Tomb of Cardinal Aldobrandini

Mosaic of St. Sebastian

More decorations at the back of the church

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