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Moses Statue | The Reason Michelangelo’s Moses Has Horns

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Moses Statue is a fully Renaissance work. Which also shows some of the characteristics of the strength with which Michelangelo used to endow his figures.

The statue of Moses, which occupies the central part of Pope Julius II’s tomb, is one of the Italian genius’s best-known works. He saw in it an idealised portrait of Pope Julius II, although it also contains features of the artist.

 The frowning look and the tension of the bulging veined muscles, all anticipating a dramatic explosion.

Why does the statue of Moses have horns?

The church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome houses one of Michelangelo’s famous statues of the Jewish prophet. Surprisingly, the statue of Moses has horns, and this brings to mind the stoned devils of the Bible.

Because of a mistranslation of a biblical text, the famous statue of Moses has horns, even though it was designed for one of the papacy’s most important churches.

The Bible does indeed mention that the great prophet came down from the mountain after receiving the Lord’s message, wearing a kind of nimbus around his head and his face radiating with light. 

Who made the misinterpretation in the Statue of Moses?

Moses, instead of being depicted surrounded by the light of knowledge and wisdom, is depicted cuckolded.

The person who made the misinterpretation was Aquila, translator of the ancient Hebrew religious texts. 

Various modern interpreters of the Bible, however, argue that in those times horns had nothing to do with the devil and dark forces. 

Does Moses have horns in Michelangelo’s vision?

erhaps the earliest scribes of the biblical texts saw Moses crowned, given by God with power, but also with apparent markings to show his prophetic mission.

Whether crowned or enlightened, Moses has horns in Michelangelo’s vision, which respected the biblical translations of his time. Strange also is the position of the horns, which do not resemble ram or bull horns at all. But rather a kind of simple crown.

Certainly, the statue of Moses is another brilliant work by the great artist. Imposing and astonishing in its strength, balance and suggestive expressions. You cannot leave the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. Without a particularly strong impression of this statue.

Moses Statue

Where is the Statue of Moses?

The church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains) got its name from the chains that shackled St Peter when he was a captive in Jerusalem and Rome.

The church of San Pietro in Vincoli is known mainly for the location of the statue of Moses that Michelangelo created for the tomb of Pope Julius II. It was Pope Julius II who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Moses’ face shone (Hebrew qāran, Greek dedóxastai). But if we look at the Latin translation attributed to Saint Jerome, in the Vulgate, things become difficult to understand: “his face had horns”. In this case, the principle of the Latin translation of the Old Testament, as stated by its author himself, Hebraica veritas, played tricks on him. 

How is the statue of Moses positioned?

It is not known exactly what the whole monument was supposed to look like, but it would most likely have had the statue of Julius in the center, with Moses and Christ above it.

Today, the statue of Moses occupies the most prominent position. It is flanked by statues of Leah and Rachel, both created in the last years of Michelangelo’s life.

Two unfinished statues of dying slaves are now in the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

Why does the Statue of Moses have a cut on the right knee?

The Statue of Moses attracts attention not only because of its position, but also because of its extremely captivating appearance.

Even Michelangelo considered the statue to be one of his finest works. And legend has it that the statue seemed so real to him that he was caught talking to it. When the statue didn’t respond to him, Michelangelo got mad and threw a chisel at Moses’ knee. This explains the small cut that can be seen on the statue’s right knee.

The horns on Moses’ head are due to an incorrect translation of the Old Testament. 

Primary Takeaways

  • Michelangelo designed a huge monument with 40 statues. He then went to Florence to choose the best blocks of Carrara marble and began carving. In 1508, however, the Pope turned his attention to decorating the Sistine Chapel. And wanted Michelangelo to paint the chapel’s ceiling.
  • Michelangelo obeyed the Pope’s wishes, but not with total conviction; he considered himself more of a sculptor and architect than a painter. But what came out of his brushes was beyond imagination.
  • Shortly after Michelangelo finished work on the Sistine Chapel, Pope Julius II died. And his successors commissioned Michelangelo to do other works.


Most tourists visit the church to see the tomb of Giuliano della Rovere, who became Pope Julius II in 1503. In 1505 the Pope invited Michelangelo to Rome to work on the decoration of his future tomb.

The warlike Pope Julius II, Michelangelo’s patron, commissioned the artist to build a tomb to match his ambitions for autonomy, which he then placed in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. By the time he was 33, Michelangelo Buonarroti had painted only one painting. Pope Julius II took the risk and entrusted him with the ceiling of the chapel. Michelangelo had read and re-read the Bible hundreds of times, and yet…