Michelangelo, Moses figure in the Tomb of Pope Julius II, 1505-1545, marble, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.

Pope Julius II offered Michelangelo the commission to build his mausoleum in the new St. Peters Basilica. The original concept was for an enormous multi-storied tomb with over forty larger-than-life sculptures. Although the project was a nightmare, it finally ended in 1545 thirty-three years after Julius’ death. The much-abbreviated version was installed by Julius’ family in San Pietro in Vincoli instead of St. Peter’s even though Julius is not buried there.

The mausoleum in anchored by Michelangelo’s powerful sculpture of Moses.  Even though it is a seated figure, it radiates energy because of how the body is rotated as Moses gazes off to one side as he holds the commandments on the opposite side. The sculpture was intended to be fifteen feet or more above the viewer so it is unlikely they were a focal point but Moses has horns. The horns were a visual attribute of Moses in art in the middle ages and well into the Renaissance. In the Vulgate St. Jerome translated the Hebrew keren to horned instead of radiant as it is usually translated now.


A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

A Christian priest and theologian from around 400 C.E.; his translation of the Bible into Latin, called the Vulgate, became the definitive Bible translation for over a thousand years.

The historical period generally spanning from the fifth century to the fifteenth century C.E. in Europe and characterized by decreases in populations and the degeneration of urban life.

The Latin-language translation of the Christian Bible (mostly from Hebrew and Greek) created primarily by Jerome.

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