Select Artictic Highlights
Saint Peter in Chains is well known for its architecture and magnificent artwork. The basilica's spacious interior features three apses, a large central nave and two side aisles divided by antique fluted Doric columns. Detailed frescoes in the drum of the apse, or arch, that were completed in 1577 by Jacopo Coppi, depict significant events in the life of Saint Peter. A fresco to the left of the arch depicts Saint Peter in prison, followed by his liberation. In the center, the Patriarch of Jerusalem can be seen presenting the chains that bound Saint Peter. On the right, Eudoxia conveys the chains to the pope.
A sculpted 19th century canopy, called a baldachin, marks the monumental chains that bound Saint Peter, displayed for veneration in the confessio. Pilgrims enter the confessio by way of two ramps of stairs paved in colored marble, designed by Vespignani in 1876. The central vault displays a beautiful painting by G.B. Parodi (1706), depicting the miracle of the chains of Saint Peter. The nave ends in a triumphal arch atop two ancient red granite columns with Corinthian capitals.
Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses, completed in 1515, was originally intended as part of a massive 47 statue funeral monument to Pope Julius II, a patron of the arts who laid the cornerstone of the larger Saint Peter's Basilica in 1506. The mausoleum of Pope Julius II, located in the right transept, is dominated by the seated figure of Moses, a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. Moses is depicted with horns, conveying the biblical account of his face shining with light from "the radiance of the Lord" after his descent from Mount Sinai. Art historians note that Moses is depicted with horns due to the closeness of the Hebrew words for "beams of light" and "horns." The niches on either side hold two female figures, Leah (right) and Rachel (left). Additional sculptures present within Saint Peter in Chains have been regarded as works of Michelangelo's followers: the Madonna and Child, the Prophet and Sybil, and the reclining figure of Pope Julius II.