Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli ☆☆☆

The lower register of Michelangelo's Monument to Julius II (1505–45), San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy (Photo by Andrea Moroni)
The lower register of Michelangelo's Monument to Julius II (1505–45)

Michelangelo's famous Moses statue on tomb of Pope Julius II—plus the chains that bound St. Peter—at the chruch of "St. Peter in Chains"

Besides the chains that supposedly once bound St. Peter in prison (now on display under the altar), this 5C church with the Renaissance portico facade—and nave defined by 20 splendid ancient Doric columns of Greek marble—is famous for containing one of Michelangelo's greatest masterpieces—and one of his most bitter failures.

In 1505, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to create for him a monumental tomb, and the master came up with a grandiose mausoleum festooned with 40 statues.

The pope sent the sculptor off to the mountains of Carrara to search for marble, but when Michelangelo returned Julius set him to work painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling instead.

Doggedly trying to continue work on the tomb over the next several decades, Michelangelo kept reducing his plans as other projects took up his time and the descendants of Julius squabbled over how much they would invest in a tomb for their late, illustrious relative.

The master managed to finish two Slaves, which now reside in the Louvre in Paris, and roughed out five more, now in Florence's Accademia Gallery.

He also crafted one of the grand figures who was to sit above our heads at the corners of the tomb, a muscle-bound Moses with satyr's horns in his head (symbolizing the holy rays of light from medieval iconography), the Commandments tablets clutched in one hand, and a self-portrait of Michelangelo hiding in Moses's flowing beard.

And that's pretty much all poor old Julius got in the end. This (relatively) modest wall monument, with a few other niched statues, was mostly executed by Michelangelo's assistants (though the master probably had a hand in the more delicate Rachel and Leahfigures flanking Moses).

In a final twist of fate, this is a monument only, not a tomb. Julius himself lies buried and forgotten in an unassuming grave in a corner of the Vatican.

There are some other neat tombs throughout, including a monument to the Pollaiuolo Brothers (early Renaissance artists) just inside the door on the left, and several other monuments with gruesome memento mori carvings of skeletons.

Photo gallery
  • The lower register of Michelangelo
  • The facade, San Pietro in Vincoli, Italy (Photo by David Castor)
  • The nave, with is ancient Doric columns and 18C coffered ceiling, central fresco of
  • The altar reliquary containing St. Peter
  • Apse frescoed in 1577 by Jacopo Coppi, with a late 19C baldacchino (altar canopy) by Virginio Vespignani, San Pietro in Vincoli, Italy (Photo by Fczarnowski)
  • Michelangelo
  • Michelangelo
  • Michelangelo
  • A recreation of Michelangelo
  • Sarcophagus of the Maccabei Brothers, AD 1C, from Antioch, San Pietro in Vincoli, Italy (Photo by Luciano Tronati)
  • Tomb of Cardinal Cinzio Passeri Aldobrandini, San Pietro in Vincoli, Italy (Photo by Vassil)
  • Monument to Mariano Pietro Vecchiarello, San Pietro in Vincoli, Italy (Photo by sailko)
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How long does San Pietro in Vincoli take?

You can see the church's sights in about 20–30 minutes.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).