On to Raphael's Masterpieces in the Vatican
Not surprisingly, considering his papal connections, you'll find many of Raphael's paintings in the Vatican Museums
. (Always book your tickets in advance to avoid the long waiting lines!)
He was just 24 years old when he joined a team of painters from all over Italy to decorate the new papal apartments, the "Stanze." His first attempts in what was later called the Stanza della Segnatura pleased the Pope so much that he decided to entrust Raphael with decorating the entire apartment from 1509 onward.
Raphael outdid himself, painting the Disputa, the School of Athens, and the Parnassus in the Stanza della Segnatura. Also notable is the Stanza di Eliodoro, with scenes from the biblical story of Heliodorus - the dramatic Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple; the harmonious Mass at Bolsena, the action-filled Meeting of Leo the Great with Attila and the study of light in the Deliverance of Saint Peter.
His frescoes in the Loggia di Raffaello are extraordinary. Let us know which is your favorite. Note that the Vatican Gallery, which is part of the Vatican Museums tour, houses the Transfiguration, a signature work and also the last he painted before his death.
Raphael's Contributions to Roman Architecture
Raphael's training as an architect contributed, no doubt, to the symmetry, form, and most every aspect of his paintings. Although the Vatican kept him busy painting, he did get to practice architecture in and around Rome -- a walk in the heart of the Baroque center of the city will take you to some of his achievements. At the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo
, Raphael was in charge of designing the structure, the mosaics of the dome, and the sculptures.
The latter were executed by Lorenzetto and completed, years later, by Bernini. In the Church of Sant'Agostino
, you'll find the splendid Prophet Isaiah, a fresco full of references to the work of Michelangelo with whom he had a strained relationship. Also notable is the fresco of Sibyls and Angels in the church, Santa Maria Della Pace
, a few steps from Piazza Navona. As an architect, Raphael accepted a position as Superintendent of Works in the Vatican Basilica, after having built the charming small church of Sant'Eligio degli Orefici. Another project, hailed throughout the sixteenth century, was the unfinished Villa Madama
on the slopes of Monte Mario that Raphael began in 1518 on behalf of Leo X and Cardinal Giulio de' Medici. Complete your itinerary in the footsteps of Raphael in Rome by visiting his grave, in the Pantheon.