RAPHAEL ROOMS AND LOGGIAS
In 1508, while Michelangelo was beginning the decorations of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael, who was still very young but already the idol of Patrician Rome, to cover the walls of the four vast rooms of his new residence with large frescoes. The visit begins with the Hall of Constantine, reached through an external passage looking over the Belvedere Courtyard. This room is dedicated to the emperor who, in 313, decreed freedom of worship for the Christians. It was painted after the artist's death. The decoration should be attributed to his pupils Giulio Romano and Francesco Penni.
From here, a door in the wall to the left of the Battle of Constantine leads to Raphael's Loggias which face the San Damaso Courtyard. They are not open to the public; we will therefore recall only their most essential features. The general concept of the decoration is attributed to Raphael, who planned a series of biblical scenes portrayed in panels above the small vaults of the arcades (the famous Bible of Raphael). The decorative cornice inspired by the Domus Aurea (Emperor Nero's Golden House) is covered with stucco and ornamental motifs in fresco and so called grotesques.
Access to the Chapel of Nicholas V is from the Hall of Constantine. It was adorned with frescoes by Beato Angelico (1448-1450) in which the master clearly narrates the stories of the two proto-martyrs Stephen and Lawrence, creating richly human scenes with great formal balance. Ornamental laurel leaves and flowers divide the frescoes on the walls into sequences on two levels. The Room of Heliodorus follows. It was decorated between 1512 and 1514, by which time Raphael had completely mastered his technique. The room takes its name from the fresco on the wall of the entrance which depicts the Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple in Jerusalem for sacrilegiously attempting to steal the temple treasure. Flouting tradition, the main subject of the scene is not placed in the center, but on the left side. The central section, empty in the foreground, seems to acquire an infinite dimension with its series of arches in rhythmic succession, admist the play of light and shade. On the left, a Crowd of spectators watches the dramatic scene; behind, superbly oblivious to what is going on around them, Julius II towers, seated on his gestatorial chair with a small group of papal dignitaries.