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Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome photo

The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli is near the Coliseum on the Esquiline. The name is translated as the «church of St. Peter in chains». The holy chains, the chains that bound the apostle St. Peter, are stored there. People also come there to see the tomb of Pope Julius II.

The basilica was built for the money of Licinia Eudoxia, wife of emperor Valentinian III, in 5 century A.D. Subsequently, it was rebuilt many times. The basilica got its final look in 1475. That year the facade of the church as well as a small court in front of it were completed.

The holy chains are kept in a transparent reliquary under the altar of the basilica. The relic consists of the Jerusalem chain (Big) that St. Peter was bound with in 42 A.D. by the order of Herod Agrippa and the Roman chain (Small) that the apostle was bound with in the Mamertine Prison in 64 A.D., before he was martyred at the circus of Nero.

The Jerusalem chain was brought in Rome by Aelia Eudoxia, wife of emperor Theodosius II and mother of Licinia Eudoxia who built the basilica. Aelia Eudoxia received the relic from Juvenal, bishop of Jerusalem.  According to legend, the Jerusalem chain and the Roman chain miraculously fused together when Pope Leo I touched them. It is believed that the holy chains have a healing power attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

The tomb of Pope Julius II by Michelangelo is at least as significant relic of San Pietro in Vincoli. It took Michelangelo over 40 years to create it. Pope Julius II admired the talent of Michelangelo and after his election he asked him to create for him the most magnificent tomb in the Christian world. By the first project Michelangelo had to create not just a tomb but a mausoleum with 40 sculptures. He had 5 years to complete the project. However, Pope asked Michelangelo to postpone the project and concentrate on the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.

After the death of Julius II in 1513 Michelangelo returned to the project. However, the successors of Julius II wished to replace it with a much more modest tomb. Only sixth project was approved and Michelangelo began to work at it. The project was completed only in 1545. And Michelangelo only had time to finish three main sculptures of the tomb (Moses, Lia and Rahil). The other sculptures were created by his apprentices.

Moses is the main sculpture of the tomb. It is also known as «Moses with horns». This was due to the errors in the first Latin translations of the Bible. One of the words in Hebrew texts was mistranslated as «horns» instead of «rays». As a result, Moses was represented with small horns by Michelangelo.

At first it was planned to place the tomb of Julius II in the Basilica of St. Peter. But, finally, it was placed in Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli as Giuliano della Rovere (future Pope Julius II) served just there before he was elected Pope.