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Chapter

Flight from Rome (1)

Pope Julius was true to his word: he refused all payments to Michelangelo. He also sent Michelangelo a rent bill for the use of the workshop on Piazza Rusticucci.

Michelangelo before Pope Julius

Michelangelo had used up some of his savings to pay for his expenses in Rome, and his father had spent the rest in Florence on another farm. A second shipment of marble from Carrara was set to be delivered, and Michelangelo didn’t have the money to pay for it. If he couldn’t pay, it was his reputation that would suffer, not the pope’s.

Michelangelo knew he was rightfully owed for all the expenses he had incurred so far. He decided it was time to go see Julius to demand payment.  

First thing Monday morning he made his way to the Sala Regia. When he reached the top of the stairs, a guard told him the pope was not available and to come back at the same time the next day.

Scala Regia

Scala Regia

On Tuesday morning he set out again, only to be told to come back the next day. The same thing happened on Wednesday.

On Thursday, as Michelangelo was making his way up the stairs, he passed two cardinals coming down.

“Don’t worry about the cost of the tomb,” one of them said to the other. “Julius just said he has no intention of paying one ducat more for it.”

Michelangelo ran up the staircase. “I demand to see the pope,” he said to the guard. “I know he’s in there.”

“I’m sorry,” the guard answered. “You just missed him. Why don’t you come back tomorrow?”

“Where did he go?”

“To the papal apartments. But you can’t go there.”

On Friday, Michelangelo vowed not to leave until he saw the pope, even if he had to break down the door.

“I have an appointment,” he insisted to the guards. “He’s expecting me.”

“The pope gave strict orders not to let anyone through this door.”

“Do you know who I am?” said Michelangelo.

“Of course I know who you are,” answered the guard. “You’re the man the pope told me never to let through this door.” He laughed. “Don’t you know Julius is never going to see you until you give him what he wants?”

Michelangelo felt as if everyone in the city were laughing at him.

He could have dealt with his anger by pounding on stone. But if he did that he’d have to do so in his studio, where he would be reminded of the pope’s bills and all the other expenses he couldn’t pay. That would distract him from sculpting, and the entire cycle would be repeated the next morning.

Michelangelo turned away from the pope’s guard and left the Sala Regia. He didn’t go back to his studio. Instead, he found himself slowly making his way over to the Sistine Chapel for another look at the ceiling.

Next: Flight from Rome (2)

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