Michelangelo’s Moses in Rome

Michelangelo Moses images

First and foremost, Michelangelo was a sculptor. His evocative Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica is probably his best-known sculpture in Rome, but it would be a mistake to miss Michelangelo’s Moses.

Horned Moses Rome

To be more precise, Michelangelo created a horned Moses – and the carved marble figure can be seen inside the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, not far from the Colosseum.

Michelangelo Moses images

In English, the name of the church is “St. Peter in Chains,” and in addition to Michelangelo’s Moses, it is best known for holding the relics of the chains which once bound St. Peter in Jerusalem. The shackles were brought to Rome as a gift to the Pope and it said that when Pope Leo I held the chains and compared them to those that were used to jail Peter in Rome, the chains miraculously fused together.

Relics of St Peter's Chains in Rome

They are displayed under the altar at the front of the church, but most of the (small) crowd will gather just to one side to take in the marble tomb upon which a horned Moses sits front and center.

images of Michelangelo's Moses

The Moses sculpture fronts what was intended to be a free-standing tomb for Pope Julius II. The monumental burial place was meant to be adorned with more than 40 larger-than-life statues. The Moses figure was intended to be placed higher up, forcing the viewer to gaze upon it from below – which is why the proportions might seem slightly off when it is admired straight on.

Moses with horns

Michelangelo’s Moses has horns due to a mistranslation of Hebrew. “Radiated light” and “grew horns” are similar in Hebrew and the Latin translation of the Bible that would have been available when Michelangelo was working on the sculpture between 1513 and 1515 went with “horns.”

Plus, I imagine that horns are easier to sculpt than rays of radiating light.

Rome church San Pietro in Vincoli

As you enter the church, the horned Moses will be in the back to the right.

Fresco San Pietro in Vincoli

An extremely helpful security guard would not let me leave until he directed me back to a fresco fragment from the 5th century. Yes, the horned Moses is the big attraction but the church is clearly worth a visit for many reasons.

If you are not sure where it is, the easiest way to find San Pietro in Vincoli is to climb the stairs from Via Cavour. The church is at the very top.

Monti Rome Stairs

Michelangelo’s Horned Moses

San Pietro in Vincoli
Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a
Rome, Italy (Monti/Colle Oppio)

Open: 8 am – 12:20 pm and 3 pm – 5:50 pm. (Hours may vary on Sundays and Holidays)

8 thoughts on “Michelangelo’s Moses in Rome

  1. Lee says:

    While doing research on Rome for a book I’m writing, I came across a photo of Michelangelo’s Moses and thought, “Surely those can’t be horns?” I enjoyed finding your page, both for the background on the horns and for the humor. Thanks for sharing this adventure!

  2. Maria says:

    Sometime in the Summer of 1963 or Fall of 1965 I saw Michelangelo’s MOSES
    at the chiesa San Pietro In Vincoli in Rome. It was a breathtaking experience. To this day I remember where I was standing and from what angle I was looking. How incredible
    that a piece of stone could be made to be a human being! I remember reading that Michelangelo had tapped the knee of the sculpture when he had finished and said “Now speak!!” Truly a magnificent, unequaled work of art.

  3. C. S. Warner says:

    Hi Natalie, I am writing a book and would like to use the image of the full view of the ‘Horned Moses,’ which includes all of the characters around him. It is the fifth image down from the top of the article and is called ‘Michelangelo’s Moses in Rome,’ POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2018 BY NATALIE. Do you own the copyright to this image or do you know who does? If you own the copyright, could I please have your permission to use it? Thank you. C. S. Warner

    • Natalie says:

      Hello! My apologies for a reply years later – but I don’t license my photos. I do own the copyright and they are for this website only. Thank you for your interest.

  4. Dena says:

    Yes if seen it but didn’t realize it was Moses ( I think because of the horns) or who it was done by , wish I would have looked at it more closely! His pieta is amazing! Thanks for the info

  5. Maria Reale says:

    I was born in Rome in 1937 for a period of time I lived very close to the Colle Oppio and San Pietro in Vincoli. In summer we used to go and play in the park at the Colle Oppio. I was then10 years old and with my friend Patrizia and both our mothers we used to go around the corner and visit the Moses in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli. We really did marvel at that beautiful sculpture made by Michelangelo. I will never forget.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.