A practical guide to see Michelangelo’s Pieta in Rome: where to find it, how to access, interesting facts about one of the most significant masterpieces from Renaissance times.
The Pieta by Michelangelo (Michelangelo’s Piety) is one of the most significant and beautiful sculptures from the Renaissance.
Sculpted over 2 years, between 1497 and 1499, Michelangelo’s Pieta is in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, in Rome city and attracts every year visitors from all over the world, who marvel at its grace and visual power.
Seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta in Rome is easy and free.
However, since the sculpture is inside St Peter’s Basilica, it is essential to have the correct information about access and visiting rules.
This is my practical guide to seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta’ in Rome.
This article is part of our series: where to see works of art by Michelangelo in Rome.
Michelangelo’s Pieta: fast facts
- Author: Michelangelo Buonarroti
- Name of the sculpture: Pietà
- Years of construction: 1498-99
- Material: Carrara Marble
- Size: h174 L195 D69 cm
- Address: St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
- Opening Hours: 1st Oct-31st March: 07.00 am – 6.30pm | 1st April – 30 Sept: 7.00am – 7.00pm. Religious celebrations in the basilica may affect these hours.
Where can you see Michelangelo’s Pieta in Rome?
Michelangelo’s Pieta is inside St Peter’s Basilica, in Vatican City, in Rome city.
The statue is close to the entrance of the basilica, immediately to your left on entering. The sculpture has its back to the wall and faces the visitor. Since an attack damaged part of the statue, a glass wall separates the observer from the figures without restricting vision.
Access to the basilica and the statue is free. You can read what else to see here and how to access it in our practical guide to St Peter’s Basilica.
Do I need tickets to see the Pieta’ by Michelangelo?
You do not need tickets to see Michelangelo’s Pieta in Rome.
The statue is one of the several masterpieces that decorate the basilica and there is no separate ticket for admiring it. Access to St Peter’s Basilica’s main floor, where the Pieta is displayed, is free.
How to access St Peter’ Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica is an operating church and access to it is free. Before entering, you need to pass metal detectors for security checks and this often causes long lines; however, there is no ticket to enter and, once in, you can visit at your leisure.
Top Tip! It is essential to know that due to the religious significance of the church, a specific dress code applies to all visitors: you can find our complete guide to the Vatican dress code here.
What is the significance of the Pieta by Michelangelo?
The Pieta is the only sculpture by Michelangelo signed by the artist.
Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, the French ambassador from the court of Charles VIII to pope Alexander VI, commissioned it and the job description seems to have requested the artist to create ‘the most beautiful work of marble in Rome, one that no living artist could better’.
Unfazed by the request, Michelangelo accepted the job and created one of the most beautiful statues in Rome of all time. He sculpted it when he was only 24.
The work only took 2 years and depicts the subject of the pietas in an innovative way.
The Pieta represents Mary holding the body of Jesus right after his crucifixion, before his burial. The bodies are carved out of white Carrara marble and they are life-size: this comes as a surprise for most visitors, who expect a much bigger sculpture; however, it is powerful details that make the emotional message of the statue even more relatable and touching.
The scene of Mary holding Jesus after his death was not new at the time: artists had portrayed it before, especially in France and Germany; however, the representation of the virgin usually showed her grief-stricken.
In Michelangelo’s interpretation, the virgin has a sad yet peaceful and accepting expression that evokes a spiritual moment.
To highlight even more the uniqueness of this mother and son moment, Michelangelo also opted to depict the virgin as a young woman. In reality, Mary would have been in her middle age at the time of Jesus’ death but Michelangelo decided to give her a youthful look to showcase how her divinity.
The two figures sit in a position that gives the sculpture a pyramid shape: the body of Jesus, lying, forms the base and the head of Mary works as the pyramid summit.
This composition was unusual for the time when sculptures tended to show individual figures rather than multiple characters however, it became very popular and was later adopted, for instance, by Bernini.
Where else to see Michelangelo’s masterpieces in Rome
Michelangelo Buonarroti worked expensively in Rome and there are several locations where to admire his work:
The Sistine Chapel ceiling and Last Judgment – In the Vatican City, you visit the Sistine Chapel during the visit to the Vatican Museums (ticketed advanced booking mandatory. Find info here
St Ptere’s Dome – climbing the dome is a ticketed experience but you can admire the dome also from St Peter’s Square and many of Rome’s most beautiful viewpoints
Piazza del Campidoglio – a monumental square on the top of the ancient Capitoline Hill, free to access, entirely redesigned by Michelangelo who turned it into one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
The Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli – beauiful sculpure of Moses inside the church of St Peter in Chains (San PIetro in Vicoli)
Cristo Risorto in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva – evocative statue of the Risen Christ, in the church of Santa maria Sopra Minerva, in pretty Piazza della Minerva
Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri – vast church by Michelangelo in the space of ancient Roman Baths.