Raphael Rooms

The four Stanze di Raffaello ("Raphael's rooms") in the Palace of the Vatican form a suite of reception rooms, the public part of the papal apartments. They are famous for their frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop. Together with Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, these are the grand fresco sequences that mark the High Renaissance in Rome.

The "Stanze", as they are invariably called, were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael, at the time a relatively young artist from Urbino, and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to redecorate the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius' intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI, as the "Stanze" are directly above Alexander's Borgia Apartment. They are on the third floor, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard.

Running from east to west, as a visitor would have entered the apartment, but not following the sequence in which the "stanze" were frescoed, the rooms are the Sala di Costantino ("Hall of Constantine"), the Stanza di Eliodoro ("Room of Heliodorus"), the Stanza della Segnatura ("Room of the Signatura") and the Stanza dell'incendio del Borgo ("The Room of the "Fire in the Borgo").

After the death of Julius in 1513, with two rooms frescoed, Pope Leo X continued the program. Following Raphael's death in 1520, his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle finished the project with the frescoes in the "Sala di Costantino".

ala di Costantino

The largest of the four rooms is the "Sala di Costantino" ("Hall of Constantine"). Its paintings were not begun until Pope Julius and indeed, Raphael himself had died. The room is dedicated to the victory of Christianity over paganism. Its frescoes represent this struggle from the life of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and are the work of Giulio Romano, Gianfrancesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle. Because they are not by the master himself, the frescos are less famous than works in the neighboring rooms. Continuing a long tradition of flattery, Raphael's assistants gave the features of the current pontiff, Clement VII, to Pope Sylvester in the paintings.

"The Vision of the Cross"

The fresco of "The Vision of the Cross" depicts the legendary story of a great cross appearing to Constantine as he marched to confront his rival Maxentius. The vision in the sky is painted with the words "Εν τούτω νίκα" ("By this, conquer") written next to it.

"The Battle of Milvian Bridge"

"The Battle of Milvian Bridge" shows the battle that took place on October 28, 312, following Constantine's vision.

"The Donation of Constantine"

"The Donation of Constantine" was inspired by the famous forged documents that granted the Popes sovereignty over their territorial dominions.

"The Baptism of Constantine"

The final painting, "The Baptism of Constantine", was most likely painted by Gianfrancesco Penni, and shows the emperor on his deathbed.

tanza di Eliodoro

The next room, going from East to West, is the "Stanza di Eliodoro" ("Room of Heliodorus"). It takes its name from one of the paintings. The theme of this private chamber was the heavenly protection granted by Christ to the Church. The four paintings are "The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple", "The Deliverance of Saint Peter", "The Meeting of Pope Leo I and Attila" and "The Mass at Bolsena". In all of these frescoes, Raphael flatteringly includes his patron, Pope Julius II, as participant or observer.

"The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple"

In "The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple" Raphael illustrated the biblical episode from II Maccabees (3:21-28) about Heliodorus, who was sent to seize the treasure preserved in the Temple in Jerusalem, but was trampled by a horse.

"Deliverance of Saint Peter"

The "Deliverance of Saint Peter" shows, in three episodes, how Saint Peter was liberated from prison by an angel, as described in Acts 12.

"The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila"

main|The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila"The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila" depicts the storied parley between the Pope and the Hun conqueror, and includes the legendary images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the sky bearing swords. Interestingly, Raphael first depicted Leo I with the face of Pope Julius II but after Julius' death, Raphael changed the painting to resemble the new pope, Leo X.

"The Mass at Bolsena"

"The Mass at Bolsena" depicts the story of a Bohemian priest who in 1263 ceased to doubt the doctrine of Transubstantiation when he saw the bread begin to bleed during its consecration at Mass.

tanza della Segnatura

The "Stanza della segnatura" ("Room of the Signatura") was the first to be decorated by Raphael's frescoes. It was the study housing the library of Julius II, in which the Signatura of grace tribunal was originally located. The artist's concept brings into harmony the spirits of Antiquity and Christianity and reflects the contents of the pope's library with themes of theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, and the poetic arts, represented in tondi above the lunettes of the walls. The theme of this room is worldly and spiritual wisdom and the harmony which Renaissance humanists perceived between Christian teaching and Greek philosophy. The theme of wisdom is appropriate as this room was the council chamber for the Apostolic Signatura, where most of the important papal documents were signed and sealed.

"Disputation of the Holy Sacrament"

The first composition Raphael executed in 1508 or 1509 was the "Disputation of the Holy Sacrament", the traditional name for what is really an "Adoration of the Sacrament". In the painting, Raphael created an image of the church, which is presented as spanning both heaven and earth.

"The School of Athens"

Toward the end of 1509, Raphael began work on the wall opposite the "Disputa". This second painting, entitled "The School of Athens", represents the truth acquired through reason; it was meant to reside over the philosophical section of Pope Julius II's library. It is perhaps Raphael's most famous fresco.

"The Parnassus"

Raphael began the third composition at the end of 1509 or the beginning of 1510. It represents "The Parnassus", the dwelling place of the God Apollo and the Muses and the home of poetry, according to classical myth. In the fresco Apollo and the muses are surrounded by poets from antiquity and Raphael's own time.

"The Cardinal Virtues"

The two scenes on the fourth wall, executed by the workshop, and the lunette above it, containing the "Cardinal Virtues", were painted in 1511. "The Cardinal Virtues" allegorically presents the virtues of fortitude, prudence and temperance.

tanza dell'incendio del Borgo

The "Stanza dell'incendio del Borgo" was named for the "Fire in the Borgo" fresco which depicts Pope Leo IV making the sign of the cross to extinguish a raging fire in the Borgo district of Rome near the Vatican. This room was prepared as a music room for Julius' successor, Leo X. The frescos depict events from the lives of Popes Leo III and Leo IV. The other paintings in the room are "The Oath of Leo III", "The Coronation of Charlemagne by Leo III", and "The Battle of Ostia". Though the "Fire in the Borgo" was based on Raphael's mature designs it was executed by his assistants, who painted the other three paintings without his guidance.

"The Oath of Leo III"

On December 23 800 AD, Pope Leo III took an oath of purgation concerning charges brought against him by the nephews of his predecessor Pope Hadrian I. This event is shown in "The Oath of Leo III".

"The Coronation of Charlemagne"

"The Coronation of Charlemagne" shows how Charlemagne was crowned Imperator Romanorum on Christmas Day, 800.

"Fire in the Borgo"

"The Fire in the Borgo" shows an event that is documented in the "Liber Pontificalis": a fire that broke out in the Borgo in Rome in 847. According to the Catholic Church, Pope Leo IV contained the fire with his benediction.

"The Battle of Ostia"

"The Battle of Ostia" was inspired by the naval victory of Leo IV over the Saracens at Ostia in 849.

External links

* [http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/SDR/SDR_00_Main.html The Stanze of the Vatican]


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