Monday: San Pietro in Vincoli

After the long trek up the Oppian Hill, we now stand before the graceful Renaissance portico of St. Peter in Chains.  According to the more likely hypothesis on the archeological history of this church, the first place of Christian worship on this site dates from the late fourth or early fifth century, being completed by Pope Sixtus III.  In 431, a priest from here named Philip was a papal legate to the Council of Ephesus, at which he identified himself as coming from the titulus Apostolorum.  This likely refers to that early church’s dedication.  Disaster would strike the first church shortly after this time in the form of either fire or earthquake, leading to its almost total destruction.  Luckily, the Byzantine Emperor and his wife had pledged their support to the previous church, and continuing in this spirit their daughter Eudoxia helped to rebuild the church.  The front and back walls of the original church had remained mostly intact, so this reconstruction consisted mainly of rebuilding the nave of the church.  This was undertaken and the repairs were completed around the year 450, around the same time that the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem were given to the church; when these were placed with the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonment in Rome, the two fused together.  In the year 519, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian wanted to bring the chains to Constantinople, but was rebuffed.  Towards the end of that century, the church was rededicated at the same time that the relics of the Maccabee brothers were brought here.  Two centuries later the church was restored by Pope Adrian I; at this time the church was called by the alternate name of the Basilica Eudoxiana, commemorating the woman whose munificence had allowed its rebuilding.

In the mid-fifteenth century, the basilica was restored by the cardinal titular, Nicolo de Cusa.  Later that century two cardinals from the della Rovere family held the title: first Francesco and later Giuliano (later Popes Sixtus IV and Julius II, respectively) added to the complex of buildings on the site and ordered improvements on the church itself.  This included the addition of the porch in front of the basilica, to which an upper story would be added a century later.  Although Julius II would be ultimately be buried in St. Peter’s, his incomplete tomb, including the famous Moses, was completed in the current state by Michelangelo in 1545.  The church received additional interior decoration in 1577, when the frescoes of the apse were completed.  In the first quarter of the eighteenth century a more complete renovation was undertaken, including a new ceiling.  From 1876 to 1877, a sanctuary renovation created a confessio in front of a new high altar surmounted by a ciborium.  The chains of St. Peter, previously kept in a shrine in the left transept, were moved into the confessio for the veneration of the faithful.


Address: Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4A

Directions: Take bus 64 from the Acciaioli stop (in front of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini) to Piazza Venezia; switch to bus 117 (infrequent) and stay on until the Via Cavour stop.  Get off here and walk across the Via Cavour; turn left and continue until you reach a long staircase going under an arch; take the stairs, and at the top the church will be on your left.

Or, take bus 571 from the Acciaioli stop to the stop before via Cavour; follow up road to stairs.

Or, take the 40 or 64 to Piazza Venezia, then the 84 to the corner of via Cavour; follow as above.

Walking Directions