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San Pietro in Vincoli, translated as 'Saint Peter in Chains', is a basilica in Rome which was built to house the chains said to have held Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. Apart from the chains, tourists also visit the church in order to view Michaelangelo's beautiful statue of Moses, which adorns the tomb of Pope Julius II. San Pietro in Vincoli was first erected in around 432, although there have been many additions to the structure over the centuries. These modifications continued right up until the most recent renovation in 1875, and I imagine the building would have looked significantly different in it's early years to how it appears now. From the outside, the church isn't that impressive, and from dooyoo's picture you may even say it's fairly un-churchlike in appearance - however, it's when you step inside the building that the real majesty of the place becomes apparent. Open from 9am-12pm in the morning, and then from 3pm-6pm in the afternoon, the basilica is free to enter, although it's best to visit early in the day to avoid the crowds that inevitably gather during tourist season. Upon setting foot in the building, I was instantly impressed with the high frescoed ceilings which depict the 'Miracle of the Chains', the story of which I will briefly describe later in the review. There is a special tranquility to the place, although this is often broken by a stern looking female security guard whose job it is to walk round saying "shhhh", even when there isn't any noise - this made me jump on a couple of occasions, and became quite annoying after a while! Unlike many of Rome's important churches, flash photography IS allowed in the building, and therefore tourists are able to get a decent shot of Michaelangelo's magnificent depiction of Moses. The sculpture was created between the years 1513 and 1516, and was carved from a single piece of marble. At around two-and-a-half metres in height, the main figure is very impressive (Moses is shown as a very powerful figure) and the standard of the carving is fantastic. The chains of Saint Peter are contained in an ornate glass box by the altar, and due to the popularity of the relic, you may have to wait for a while in order to get to the front. Legend has it that Pope Leo I had a set of his own chains, and whilst he compared them to the chains of Saint Peter, the two chains miraculously fused together, and that's what visitors can apparently see housed in the box. Although the chains made for interesting viewing, the Michaelangelo sculpture was a more impressive spectacle. All in all, San Pietro in Vincoli offers tourists a range of reasons to visit; Michaelangelo's masterpiece with enthrall art lovers, religious visitors will relish the chance to view an important Christian artefact, and those who appreciate grand buildings will enjoy the architecture of the place. I would recommend San Pietro as an ideal first stop on a tour of Ancient Rome, as it's literally a couple of minutes walking distance from the Colosseum. Highly recommended as one of Rome's most beautiful but lesser profile sites.
An ancient basilica dedicated to St Peter the Apostle and houses the famous Moses statue by Michealangelo.