Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains
  • San Pietro in Vincoli al Colle Oppio (Italian)
  • S. Petri ad vincula (Latin)
Façade of the Basilica
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41°53′38″N 12°29′35″E / 41.89389°N 12.49306°E / 41.89389; 12.49306
LocationPiazza di San Pietro in Vincoli 4a, Rome, Italy
TraditionRoman Rite
WebsiteOfficial website
StatusTitular church, minor basilica
DedicationSaint Peter
ConsecratedAD 439
Architect(s)Giuliano da Sangallo
Architectural typeRenaissance, Baroque
Groundbreaking5th century
Length70 metres (230 ft)
Width40 metres (130 ft)

San Pietro in Vincoli ([sam ˈpjɛːtro ˈviŋkoli]; Saint Peter in Chains) is a Roman Catholic titular church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy, best known for being the home of Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. The Titulus S. Petri ad vincula was assigned on 20 November 2010, to Donald Wuerl. The previous Cardinal Priest of the basilica was Pío Laghi, who died on 11 January 2009.

Next to the church is hosted the Faculty of Engineering of La Sapienza University, in the former associated convent. This is named "San Pietro in Vincoli" per antonomasia. The church is on the Oppian Hill near Cavour metro station, a short distance from the Colosseum.


The Miracle of the Chains ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Parodi (1706).

Also known as the Basilica Eudoxiana (Italian: Basilica Eudossiana, it was first rebuilt on older foundations[1] in 432–440 to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem, the episode called "Liberation of Saint Peter". The Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III), who received them as a gift from her mother, Aelia Eudocia, presented the chains to Pope Leo I. Aelia Eudocia had received these chains as a gift from Iuvenalis, bishop of Jerusalem.

According to legend, when Leo compared them to the chains of St Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison, in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are now kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica.[2] A chain link outside of Rome is in St Peter's Church, Rutland, Vermont.[3] Numerous churches to St Peter bear the Ad Vincula suffix, relating them to the relic, basilica and enchainment of the Roman church-founding saint.

The basilica, consecrated in 439 by Sixtus III, has undergone several restorations, among them a restoration by Pope Adrian I, and further work in the eleventh century. From 1471 to 1503, in which year he was elected Pope Julius II, Cardinal Della Rovere, the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, effected notable rebuilding. The front portico, attributed to Baccio Pontelli, was added in 1475. The cloister (1493–1503) has been attributed to Giuliano da Sangallo. Further work was done at the beginning of the 18th century, under Francesco Fontana, and another renovation in 1875.


Interior of the basilica

The interior has a nave and two aisles, with three apses divided by antique Doric columns. The aisles are surmounted by cross-vaults, while the nave has an 18th-century coffered ceiling, frescoed in the center by Giovanni Battista Parodi, portraying the Miracle of the Chains (1706). In this scene, Pope Alexander heals the neck goiter of Saint Balbina by touching her with the chains that once bound St Peter.

Michelangelo's Moses statue

Michelangelo's Moses (completed in 1515), while originally intended as part of a massive 47-statue, free-standing funeral monument for Pope Julius II, became the centerpiece of the Pope's funeral monument and tomb in this, the church of della Rovere family. Moses is depicted with horns, connoting "the radiance of the Lord", due to the similarity in the Hebrew words for "beams of light" and "horns". This kind of iconographic symbolism was common in early sacred art, and for an artist horns are easier to sculpt than rays of light.

Other works of art include two canvases of Saint Augustine and St Margaret by Guercino, the monument of Cardinal Girolamo Agucchi designed by Domenichino, who is also the painter of a sacristy fresco depicting the Liberation of St Peter (1604). The altarpiece on the first chapel to the left is a Deposition by Cristoforo Roncalli. The tomb of Cardinal Nicholas of Kues (d 1464), with its relief, Cardinal Nicholas before St Peter, is by Andrea Bregno. Painter and sculptor Antonio del Pollaiuolo is buried at the left side of the entrance. He is the Florentine sculptor who added the figures of Romulus and Remus to the sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf on the Capitol.[4]

The tomb monument of Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini was erected 1705–07 by prince Giovanni Battista Pamphili Aldobrandini to a design by his architect Carlo Francesco Bizzaccheri and with the sculptures of putti and a winged skeleton by Pierre Le Gros the Younger.[5]

In 1876 archeologists discovered the tombs of those once believed to be the seven Maccabean martyrs depicted in 2 Maccabees 7–41.[6] It is highly unlikely that these are in fact the Jewish martyrs that had offered their lives in Jerusalem. They are remembered each year on 1 August, the same day as the miracle of the fusing of the two chains.

The third altar in the left aisle holds a mosaic of Saint Sebastian from the seventh century. This mosaic is related to an outbreak of plague in Pavia, in northern Italy. The relics of Sebastian were taken there in order to stop a 680 outbreak of plague, since Sebastian was believed to have been born in Lombardy, and an altar was constructed for his relics at a San Pietro in Vincoli in Pavia. As a symbol of the subsequently reinforced relationship between Pavia and Rome, an identical altar to Sebastian was built at the Roman church of the same name, resulting in a parallel cult for the saint in both regions.[7]

List of Cardinal-Priests since 1405

List of the cardinals titular of the church[8][9]



  1. ^ Excavations in 1956–59 revealed older foundation of the same dimensions, rising on Roman remains of various periods, the oldest dating to Republican times (Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni, Milan, 1965:337–39).
  2. ^ "San Pietro in Vincoli". Sacred Destinations.
  3. ^ "Diocese of Burlington, St Peter Church, Rutland: Vigil Mass and Sunday Mass".
  4. ^ "Sculpture" . The Oxford Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture. Ed. John B. Hattendorf. Oxford University Press, 2007.
  5. ^ Bissell, Gerhard (1997), Pierre le Gros, 1666–1719, Si Vede, pp. 90–91, ISBN 0-9529925-0-7 (in German)
  6. ^ Taylor Marshall, The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of the Catholic Christianity, Saint John Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-578-03834-6 page 170.
  7. ^ Barker, Sheila (2007). "4". In Momando, Franco; Worcester, Thomas (eds.). Piety and Plague: from Byzantium to Baroque. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University. p. 92.
  8. ^ "Cardinal Title S. Pietro in Vincoli". Retrieved 10 June 2014.[self-published source]
  9. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church". 1 January 2002. Retrieved 10 June 2014.[self-published source]
  10. ^ Rudolf Hüls (1977). Kardinäle, Klerus und Kirchen Roms: 1049–1130 (in German). Bibliothek des Deutschen Historischen Instituts in Rom. pp. 195–196. ISBN 978-3-484-80071-7.
  11. ^ Zenker, Barbara (1964). Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130 bis 1159 (in German). Würzburg. pp. 117–118.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ Comes followed the Obedience of Anacletus II, and at the Lateran Council of March 1139, all of his appointments were voided and his supporters anathematized. Zenker, p. 118.
  13. ^ Johannes M. Brixius (1912). Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130–1181. Berlin. pp. 139, 160.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) Zenker, pp. 118–123.


Preceded by
San Pancrazio
Landmarks of Rome
San Pietro in Vincoli
Succeeded by
Santa Prassede