Beloved by both pilgrims and art aficionados, the Church of St. Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) houses the chains that bound Saint Peter when the Romans imprisoned him in Jerusalem. Built in the fifth century, the church today is also home to Michelangelo’s Moses, part of the unfinished monumental tomb of Pope Julius II.
Michelangelo’s dramatic Moses statue was to have been the most prominent of the 40 figures planned for Pope Julius II's tomb and is considered one of the artist’s best works. But, work on the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican interrupted progress on the tomb, and Michelangelo completed only a few of the planned statues before his death.
The Church of St. Peter in Chains, also known as the Basilica Eudoxiana, is a favorite stop on walking tours of Ancient Rome that include other early Christian churches, such as San Clemente and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Those who want to pair their culture with cuisine can combine a tour of St. Peter in Chains with a wine tasting in the surrounding Monti neighborhood.
Things to Know Before You Go
- If you are joining a walking tour of Rome, wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
- Catholic churches in Rome require modest attire to enter: Knees and shoulders must be covered.
- Photography without flash is permitted inside the church.
- There are stairs at the entrance to the church, so it is not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There
St. Peter in Chains is only a short walk from the Colosseum and Roman Forum; the closest metro stop is Cavour.
When to Get There
Italy's capital city is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, and its sights can be very crowded in the summer months. Try to visit from November to April to enjoy the city's treasures without the crush of high-season tourists.
The Chains That Held St. Peter
This holy relic eventually made its way from Jerusalem to Rome, where it arrived in two parts, one of which was sent to Eudoxia, wife of emperor Valentinian III. When held next to shackles owned by Pope Leo I, legend holds the two parts miraculously fused together to form a single chain, now kept in an urn under the main altar.