No one would have been interested in this insignificant basilica had it not been for the fact that one of the most famous sculptures in history, one that became an iconic symbol of Renaissance art is here. This is the sculpture "Moses" by Michelangelo.
It is evident from the long line of visitors that the basilica is of great importance. It was built at the beginning of the 5th century and Pope Sixtus III (440-432) declared it a temple for the preservation of the chain, which was used to subdue the apostle Peter in Jerusalem when he was arrested by the Romans.
Another chain was added over time, and it was alleged that it was the same one that bound Peter in Rome. Christian legend holds that these two chains miraculously connected to one in the 13th century. Today the chain is displayed under the main altar in the basilica.
Originally, the statue "Moses" was meant to be one of many items, in a magnificent tombstone commissioned by Pope Julius II, intended for his own tombstone. However, after the death of the Pope, a simpler tombstone was prepared and "Moses" became a statue in its own right which became the most important statue of all.
One of the interesting details in the statue are the horns that emerge from Moses's head. It is not entirely clear what the reason for these horns are. It is believed that the verse is derived from the book of Exodus in the Bible, which describes Moses in the words "And so it was, when Moses descended from Mount Sinai ... the skin of his face shone like a ray of light (ray also means horn in Hebrew)” (Exodus 34:29).
It seems that the artist confused the word ray of light for a ray (horn) from Moses’ head. Moses’ face shone like a ray of light, but ray also means “horn” in Hebrew and therefore the artist interpreted it as an organ of the body rather than as the ray of light. It isn’t conclusive that Michelangelo took this translation at face value; he was an educated individual and knowledgeable in languages. It’s hard to believe that he took this translation into account, however it seems the only reasonable explanation. It should be noted that the horns on Moses' head are a motif which appeared in several Renaissance sculptures and paintings.