Learn where to see the work of Michelangelo in Rome with this list of Michelangelo’s masterpieces and their location in the Eternal City.
Michelangelo Buonarroti is one of the artists who has shaped Rome and has made this city the fantastic open air museum we see now.
Born in Tuscany, in the province of Arezzo, Michelangelo first worked in Rome during the years 1946-1501 then, thanks to the ever-increasing number of works commissioned to him by the Pope, he moved to Rome for good in 1534.
Michelangelo left wonderful masterpieces in Rome.
A talented architect, painter and sculptures, Michelangelo is behind some of the most famous sculptures in Rome, some of Rome’s most beautiful piazzas and of course Saint Peter’s dome, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.
Just like Bernini, who lived a century after him, Michelangelo left a mark so deep on the city, it is almost impossible to imagine Rome without his touch.
Today, we to look at a list of Michelangelo’s Masterpieces in Rome, their location, their significance and we are going to share a map and tips that will help you go and enjoy them in person.
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List of Michelangelo’s Masterpieces in Rome
|Name of work||Type||Location|
|Pieta’||Statue||Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City|
|Saint Peter’s Dome||Church dome||Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City|
|Sistine Chapel||Frescoes||Vatican Museums, Vatican City|
|Moses (tomb of Julius II)||Statue||San Pietro in Vincoli Church, Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli, 00184 Rome|
|Piazza del Campidoglio||Square||Piazza del Campidoglio, 00186 Rome|
|Risen Christ||Sculpture||Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Piazza della Minerva, 00186 Rome|
|Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri||Church||Piazza della Repubblica (aka Piazza Esedra), 00185 Rome|
|Cappella Sforza||Chapel||Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, 00184, Rome|
|Palazzo Farnese||Palace||Piazza Farnese, 00186 Rome|
|Paolina’s Chapel||Chapel||Vatican Museums, Vatican City|
|Castel Sant’Angelo||Window frame||Lungotevere Castello 50, 00193 Rome|
|Porta Pia||City Gate||Porta pia, 00187 Rome|
Michelangelo sculptures in Rome
Michelangelo was an exceptionally talented sculptor.
He started his training in Florence and developed his artistic skills at the Court of Lorenzo de’ Medici however, he created some of his masterpieces for important Romand families and for the Popes.
This means that many of Michelangelo’s most famous works are in Rome and in what now is Vatican City.
The most famous statues by Michelangelo in Rome are:
Address: Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Basilica), Vatican City
The Pieta’s by Michelangelo is one of the most famous statues in the world and outstanding work of art.
Michelangelo made it when he was only 23 years old for Cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas and it is the only statue by the artist to actually be signed by his name, still readable today.
The statue represents Mary as she holds a dying Jesus and it is exquisitely excavated in a piece of Carrara white marble that Michelangelo chose personally.
The statue is universally praised for its beauty, evocative power and the mastery of the artist, who skillfully turned stone into one of the most expressive pieces of art in the world.
The Pieta’ is now inside Saint Peter’s Basilica: you find it on your right as you enter from the main door after security checkpoints.
You can read here >>> how to see Michelangelo’s Pieta’ in Rome
Julius’ II funeral monument and Michelangelo’s Moses
Another famous statue by Michelangelo in Rome is that of Moses, in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli.
Address: Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli, 00186 Rome
The statue is the most famous part of the large funeral monument Michelangelo made for Pope Julius II and it is beautiful and unique.
Moses is represented as if he was about to stand up from sitting, while holding the Tables in his lap.
Famously, his head is represented with two small horns, probably a detail coming from a misunderstanding of the scripture, that state Moses came down from Mount Sinai with ‘rays of light coming out of his head’ (in the original version, the term for ‘rays’ and ‘horns’ in similar).
Michelangelo turned the hear of Moses to one side and added detailing to the body so that the statue evokes movement and dynamism.
This is a technique Bernini also used that helps the observer to engage with the sculpture and the space, making the viewing experience more dynamic and engaging.
Read how to visit Michelangelo’s Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli here.
Cristo Portacroce (aka Risen Christ, Christ bearing the cross)
Christ carrying the cross (Cristo Portacroce) is a famous statue by Michelangelo in Rome in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Address: Piazza della Minerva, 00186 Rome
The statue is inside the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, also famous for work by Bernini, and located in Piazza della Minerva, beside the Pantheon.
This statue represents Jesus standing, looking left and carrying a cross, a sponge and vinegar, symbols of his passion.
Unlike many other representations of Christ, Michelangelo decided to depict Jesus as a strong man, unclothed.
The decision wanted to symbolize the integrity and purity of Jesus however, the climate of the reformation meant nude statues were not acceptable and a cloth got added for modesty.
You can see Michelangelo’s Christ in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which also hosts work by Bernini.
When visiting, take your time to also admire Piazza della Minerva and the elephant sculpture in the center, by Bernini.
Michelangelo’s Paintings, Churches and Chapels in Rome
Michelangelo worked at many chapels and churches in Rome.
The Sistine Chapel – the most visited masterpiece by Michelangelo in Rome
The Sistine Chapel is probably the most famous of all Michelangelo’s masterpieces.
Located inside the Vatican, and now part of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel is the chapel where the conclave nominating the new Popes gathers and it is a place with strong meaning for the Catholic faith.
The Chapel is entirely covered in frescoes by several famous Italian artists and has an outstanding altar wall and ceiling painted by Michelangelo, commissioned to the artist by Pope Julius II in 1508.
The frescoes on the Sistine Chapel depict stories from the book of Genesis, the Creation of Adam to the fall of man, then Noah’s arch and, famously, the Last Judgment, which decorated the altar’s wall.
The Creation of Adam and the Last Judgement are among the most famous paintings in Rome and the world and attract droves of visitors.
You can visit the Sistine Chapel as part of a visit to the Vatican Museums, of which is now part. Please note: photos are not allowed inside the Sistine Chapel.
Find here >>> our guide to the Sistine Chapel or tickets to the Sistine Chapel here
St Peter’s Dome
The genius of Michelangelo is also behind the stunning dome of the Basilica of Saint Peter, one of the most beautiful and famous landmarks in Rome.
Address: Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City
Michelangelo directed the works at Saint Peter’s from 1547 to 1564, the year of his death however, the basilica as we see it now has been modified by several subsequent artists and only parts of it retain Michelangelo’s original designs.
One of such parts is the dome, which retains internally Michelangelo’s design and structure but got a new outer shell after this death, by architect Giacomo Della Porta.
Michelangelo seems to have been inspired by the dome by Brunelleschi, in Florence: he made the dome with an internal masonry structure with passages that still now allow climbing to its very top.
You can tickets for climbing to the top of Saint Peter’s Dome here.
Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri by Michelangelo is unique as it is hosted in what used to be an ancient Roman site: the Baths of Diocletian.
Address: Piazza della Repubblica, 00186 Rome
The church came to be by order of Pope Pius IV.
He wanted to transform the large Roman building into a sacred Christian space and assigned the task to Michelangelo, at that time already elderly, yet still vastly popular as one of the best artists in the city.
Michelangelo turned the tepidarium of the ancient baths and several other spaces into a large church with three entrances, almost in the shape of a Greek cross.
The church has a simple yet stunning facade obtained simply adding a cross to the ancient structure but has elaborate internal decor, surprising for the unsuspecting visitor!
Access to the church is free.
Sforza Chapels in Santa Maria Maggiore
The Sforza Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the latest works by Michelangelo.
Address: Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, 00184 Rome
The chapel is the second to the left as you enter the church and hosts the graves of Guido Ascanio and Alessandro Sforza, who commissioned it.
The chapel is peculiar as it has an elliptical shape, with a vaulted ceiling supported by columns which brought art historians to identify it as a precursor to Baroque style, which will have huge success in Rome.
La Cappella Paolina (Paolina Chapel)
The Paolina Chapel is a private Papal chapel inside the Vatican that Michelangelo decorated in his later years.
Address: Palazzo Pontificio, Vatican City
Commissioned by Pope Paul III, it has two beautiful frescoes representing the Conversion of Saint Paul and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, symbolising respectively the connection between the current Pope and Saint Paul Apostle and the weight and the responsibility attached to his role.
the chapel is not currently open to the public however, you can visit by (free) Virtual Tour
You can find here >>> more Rome virtual tours you can enjoy from home
Urban designs by Michelangelo in Rome
As well as a master sculpture and painter, Michelangelo was a talented architect who shaped some of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo is at the top of the Capitoline Hill, one of the ancient seven hills of Rome.
Address: Piazza del Campidoglio
The space was in use since Roman times when it used to host the temples to Rome’s most important Gods and Goddesses (the Capitoline Triad) but over time it has lost importance and had become a derelict, underused area.
This changed when Pope Paul III commissioned its restyling to Michelangelo.
The artist entirely redesigned the piazza, turned its direction so that it would symbolically face the Vatican, rather than the Forum like before, and turned it into one of the most beautiful renaissance squares in Italy.
Access to the piazza is free. Learn here >>> how to visit the Capitoline Hill
Porta Pia is one of the ancient gates of Rome on the Aurelian Walls.
Address: Porta Pia, 00187 Rome
It is famous as the last gate the Italian army took in 1870 (la breccia di Porta Pia) when they entered the Papal State to make it part of Italy and it an interesting architectural structure as well as an important historical Italian landmark.
The gate took his name from Pope Pius IV who, in 1561, asked Michelangelo to redesign the ancient Porta Nomentana.
Michelangelo redesigned the gate so to turn it into a monumental connection between the Pope’s palace on the Quirinale Hill and the Christian Basilica of Sant’Agnese Fuori le Mura, one of the most important extra-urban basilicas in Rome.
Porta Pia now overlooks a busy Rome junction but nonetheless, it is an interesting one to seek out if you are in the area.
You can find here >>> our guide to the Trieste Salario neighborhood
Palazzo Farnese is a beautiful, historical palazzo by Michelangelo in Rome’s Piazza Farnese now hosting the French Embassy.
Address: Piazza Farnese, 00186 Rome
The palazzo is one of the most beautiful and famous in Rome both inside and out.
Built by order of Alessandro Farnese (future Pope Paulus III), the palace was first designed by architect Sangallo and then given to Michelangelo, who canned its facade, size and designed the internal garden.
Palazzo Farnese now hosts the Embassy of France, a wonderful library you can access with a letter from a University lecturer for study reasons and recently acquired an interesting outer tromp l’oeil by street artist JR, worth seeing.
Castel Sant’Angelo has one intervention by Michelangelo: a window frame.
Address: Lungo Tevere Castello 50, 00193
Commissioned by Pope Leo X, the window was part of a large project that saw the ancient Hadrian’s Mausoleum turned into an elegant Papal residence and it is part of the prospect of the chapel to Saints Cosma and Damian, protectors of the Medici Family of which Pope Leo X belonged.
Michelangelo in Rome Map
I hope you enjoyed this guide to Michelangelo’s masterpieces in Rome and it helped you plan your Rome itinerary. Safe travels!