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Vatican Museums - Rafael Rooms

Vatican Museums - Rafael Rooms (70)

An essential stop on your visit to the Vatican Museums, these are the former private rooms of Pope Julius II, who was a great admirer of the work of Raphael. It was the Pontiff who commissioned the Italian artist to decorate the four rooms. 

Work began in 1508 and lasted 16 years. Raphael, in fact, died before it was all complete but the works made him immediately famous and placed him on the same level as Michelangelo. 

Your journey around the four rooms will probably start with the Room of the Signature. This was the study of Julius II and the place he would meet to sign official documents. The room is well-known because it contains two of Raphael’s most significant paintings, “The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament” and “The School of Athens”. “The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament” is the first fresco finished by the artist and represents the triumph of religion and the truth. It features Jesus, the Madonna and Saint John the Baptist beneath whom there is an altar with the Sacred Host. “The School of Athens”, for its part, depicts a debate between Plato and Aristotle. The crowd of characters in the fresco include Raphael himself and artists such as Bramante, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Room of Heliodorus contains the fresco from which the room gets its name: “The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple”, which tells of how the thief Heliodorus is captured by a horseman when trying to escape with the treasure from the temple of Jerusalem. This room, which was formerly a bedroom, also contains works such as “The Deliverance of Saint Peter” and “The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila”.

The Hall of Constantine, for its part, was completed in 1524 after Raphael’s death. The result is that its frescos are not of the same quality as those of the other rooms. The main theme in this room is the triumph of Christianity over paganism, and the images in the frescos show scenes from the life of Constantine.

Lastly, there is the Room of the Fire in the Borgo, which was the dining room. The pictures here were painted by Raphael’s students from 1514 to 1517. The most famous is “The Fire in the Borgo” which shows how, in the year 847, Leo IV put out a fire in this district simply by making the sign of the cross.

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