Of ancient foundation, the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains) was restored in 1475 by Meo del Caprina, at the behest of Pope Sixtus IV (r. 1471-84). Amedeo di Francesco da Settignano (1430-1501), to give the architect his full name, was also responsible for the design of the facade.
The church is home to the chains which, it is claimed, fettered St Peter when he was purportedly imprisoned in the Carcere Mamertino(Mamertine Prison). In 439 Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, gave the chains to the Empress Eudoxia, who placed one in the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and sent the other to her daughter (also called Eudoxia) in Rome. In 442 the younger Eudoxia, who was the wife of Emperor Valentinian III, presented the chain to Pope Leo I (r. 440-61), who duly built the Basilica Eudoxiana, today's San Pietro in Vincoli. At some point the second chain was sent to Rome, where, on being brought together, the two chains are said to have miraculously united. Giovanni Battista Parodi's painting of the Miracle of the Chains (1706), in the vault of the nave, illustrates one of the many miracles that the chains, which are on display in the confessio, are said to have effected.
San Pietro in Vincoli is also home to Michelangelo's magnificent statue of Moses, which he carved for the fated tomb of Pope Julius II (r. 1503-13). The statue is now the centrepiece of a monument to the pope, which stands at the end of the right aisle. The smaller figures of Leah and Rachel, symbols of the active and contemplative life, are also by Michelangelo; the rest is the work of his pupils. Pope Julius II is depicted reclining on a sarcophagus in the Etruscan funerary style. The statue has been ascribed to Raffaele da Montelupo.
The 7th century mosaic of St Sebastian over the second altar in the left aisle is a rare depiction of the saint bearded and clothed, a far cry from the usual depictions of him semi-naked and clean-shaven. In the same aisle are the tombs of Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini (1707) and Cardinal Mariano Pietro Vecchiarelli (1667). Each tomb bears graphic references to human mortality.
On a wall inside the entrance is the tomb of two Florentine artists: Antonio del Pollaiolo (1429-98) and his younger brother Piero (c. 1443-96). The busts have been attributed to the sculptor Luigi Capponi.