On Sunday, 12 march 1564, the coffin containing the body of Michelangelo, recently spirited out of Rome, was surreptitiously placed in the vault of the Florentine church of San Piero Maggiore, behind the altar that served as a meeting place for the Confraternity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. After dark, a small group of Michelangelo's most devoted followers once again carried the coffin through the streets of Florence. Although this small group of followers made every attempt to keep the preliminary funeral rites a secret, a crowd materialized around the pallbearers and torchbearers carrying the coffin to its destination, the Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce. By the time the coffin had been placed inside and the monks had blessed the body, such a crowd had suddenly found its way to the basilica that only with difficulty did the official mourners bring the coffin to the sacristy. There, as the crowd pressed around Don Vincenzio Borghini, forty-nine years old, the prior of the foundling hospital of the Innocenti, he tentatively opened up Michelangelo's coffin. In Vasari's account:
And then, when that was done, whereas he and all of us who were present were expecting to find that the body was already decomposed and spoilt (since Michelangelo had been dead twenty-five days, and twenty-two in the coffin) on the contrary we found it perfect in every part and so free from any evil odor that we were tempted to believe that he was merely sunk in a sweet and quiet sleep. Not only were his features exactly the same as when he was alive (although touched with the pallor of death) but his limbs were clean and intact and his face and cheeks felt as if he had died only a few hours before.
So it was that Giorgio Vasari and Vincenzio Borghini together, in formal language reminiscent of the translation of saints’ relics, constructed the “divine Michelangelo.”