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San Pietro in Vincoli

Coordinates: 41°53′38″N 12°29′35″E / 41.89389°N 12.49306°E / 41.89389; 12.49306
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Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains
  • San Pietro in Vincoli al Colle Oppio (Italian)
  • S. Petri ad vincula (Latin)
Façade of the Basilica
Click on the map for a fullscreen view
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
Consecrated439 CE
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. The church is on the Oppian Hill near Cavour metro station, a short distance from the Colosseum. The name alludes to the Biblical story of the Liberation of Peter.

This church is best known for housing Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.

Following the death of Pio Laghi, Donald Wuerl became the Cardinal-Priest[1] in 2010.[2]

Housed in the adjacent building, formerly a convent associated with the church, is the Faculty of Engineering of La Sapienza University. Confusingly, this academic institution also carries the epithet "San Pietro in Vincoli".


The myth of 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[3] 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. It was probably during a pilgrimage in 438-439 that Aelia Eudocia had received the chains as a gift from Juvenal, bishop of Jerusalem.

The chain is now kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica.[4] Since 1894, a link of the chain has been housed in St Peter's Church,[5] Rutland, Vermont.[6] Around the world, numerous churches to St Peter bear the Ad Vincula suffix, relating to the basilica and relic.

Of interest in this context are St Peter's two imprisonments. According to legend, when Leo compared the Jerusalem chain to that of St Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison, in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together.

The basilica, consecrated in 439 by Sixtus III, has undergone several reconstructions, among them a restoration by Pope Adrian I, and further work in the eleventh century. From 1471 to 1503, when he was elected Pope Julius II, Cardinal Della Rovere, the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, achieved notable rebuilding. The front portico, attributed to Baccio Pontelli, was added in 1475. The cloister (1493–1503) has been attributed to Giuliano da Sangallo. The vault was lowered in 1705 under the architect Francesco Fontana, and there was 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 centre by Giovanni Battista Parodi, portraying the Miracle of the Chains (1706). In this scene, based purely on a fable, Pope Alexander heals the neck goiter of the mythical Saint Balbina by touching her with the chains that had 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.[7] Inside a portico at the entrance is the original sculpture When I was Naked, created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz as part of the Matthew 25 collection installed throughout Rome on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. [8]

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.[9]

In 1876 archeologists discovered the tombs of those once believed to be the seven Maccabean martyrs depicted in 2 Maccabees 7–41.[10] 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.[11]

List of Cardinal-Priests since 1405[edit]

List of the cardinals titular of the church[12][13]

  • Deusdedit (c. 1078 – c. 1098)
  • Albericus (attested 1100)
  • Benedictus (c. 1102 – c. 1127)[14]
  • Matthaeus (c. 1127 – c. 1137)[15]
  • Comes (1138 – 1139)[16]
  • Guillelmus of Pavia (1158 – 1176)[17]


  1. ^ From the end of the fifth century, the term Cardinal applied at Rome to priests appointed for life to the twenty-five or so quasi-parishes, or Roman tituli, pertaining to the church of the Bishop of Rome as it was at that time. Were a Cardinal-Priest to be subsequently asked to undertake a vacant diocese, his title would change to Cardinal-Bishop. In matters of administration of goods, discipline, or the service of their titular churches, a cardinal has no power of governance, and he is expected not to intervene in such affairs. He is, however, at liberty to donate his own money to help with projects. For example, this building benefitted substantially from the generosity of Cardinal Della Rovere. Nowadays, the Diocese of Rome contains 334 parishes.
  2. ^ https://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/d1p08.html
  3. ^ 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).
  4. ^ "San Pietro in Vincoli". Sacred Destinations.
  5. ^ https://stpeter.vermontcatholic.org
  6. ^ https://www.vermontcatholic.org/vermont/first-bishop-consecrated-burlington-diocese-to-st-peter/
  7. ^ "Sculpture" . The Oxford Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture. Ed. John B. Hattendorf. Oxford University Press, 2007.
  8. ^ Srl, Pixell. "Benedette da Mons. Fisichella le nuove statue di Tim Schmalz". www.aslroma1.it. Retrieved 15 February 2024.
  9. ^ Bissell, Gerhard (1997), Pierre le Gros, 1666–1719, Si Vede, pp. 90–91, ISBN 0-9529925-0-7 (in German)
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Barker, Sheila (2007). "4". In Momando, Franco; Worcester, Thomas (eds.). Piety and Plague: from Byzantium to Baroque. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University. p. 92.
  12. ^ "Cardinal Title S. Pietro in Vincoli". Gcatholic.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. [self-published source]
  13. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church". Fiu.edu. 1 January 2002. Retrieved 10 June 2014.[self-published source]
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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)
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.


  • Federico Gizzi, Le chiese medievali di Roma, Newton Compton/Rome, 1998.

External links[edit]

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