The Raphael Rooms
This extraordinary cycle of frescoes is Raphael’s greatest masterpiece, painted between 1509 and 1520, the year of the artist's death. The cycle comprises four rooms:
The Room of the Segnatura
Once the seat of the highest court of the Holy See, the Segnatura Gratiae et Iustitiae, is dedicated to the celebration of knowledge: theology, philosophy, poetry and law. Particularly memorable are the frescoes in the lunette, Disputation over the Most Holy Sacrament, Cardinal and Theological Virtues and the Law, School of Athens and Parnassus.
Room of Heliodorus
The theme of this room’s decoration was inspired by a military defeat. In the summer of 1511, the pontiff retuned to Rome after a disastrous war against the French. In a climate of great uncertainty, Raphael chose a decorative theme emphasising the protection that God had bestowed on the Church at various moments in history. The four episodes are: Expulsion of Heliodorus from the temple, Mass of Bolsena, Liberation of St Peter and Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila.
Room of the Fire in the Borgo
This room is the last on which Raphael himself worked directly. The frescoes’ theme is Pope Leo X and his predecessors of the same name, Leo III and Leo IV, depicted in four episodes: Fire in the Borgo, Battle of Ostia, Crowning of Charlemagne and Justification of Leo III.
Room of Constantine
In 1517, Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to decorate this room, but the artist only had time to prepare sketches before his death in 1520. Its theme is the life of Constantine the Great and the celebration of the Church’s triumph over paganism. Its four episodes are: Vision of the Cross, Battle of Constantine against Maxentius, Baptism of Constantine, Donation of Rome.