MICHELANGELO Buonarroti
(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Tomb of Julius II

1545
Marble
San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

When, by the will of Pope Julius della Rovere (1503-13), Michelangelo went to Rome in 1505, the Pope commissioned him to build in the course of five years a tomb for the Pope. Forty life-sized statues were to surround the tomb which was to be 7 meter wide, 11 meter deep and 8 meter high; it was to be a free-standing tomb and to contain an oval funerary cell. Never, since classical times, had anything like this, in the West, been built for one man alone.

According to the iconographic plan, which we are able to reconstruct from written sources, this was to be an outline of the Christian world: the lower level was dedicated to man, the middle level to the prophets and saints, and the top level to the surpassing of both former levels in the Last Judgment. At the summit of the monument, there was to have been a portrayal of two angels leading the Pope out of his tomb on the day of the Last Judgment.

Michelangelo immediately began his preparations for this task, but the capricious Pope, in doubt of finding an appropriate place in which to erect his tomb, planned something even more grandiose: the restoration and remodelling of St Peter's. Thus Michelangelo was ordered to make other commissions, first in Bologna then in Rome, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

After the death of the Pope in 1513 Michelangelo and the Pope's heirs reached a new agreement concerning the tomb. It was decided that the tomb was to be smaller and placed against a wall. After several further changes and simplifications the tomb was finally set up in San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome in 1545.

The slaves (four in Florence and two in Paris) were intended to the lower level, while the Moses for the middle level.




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