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First Raphael Room - “Sala di Costantino” ("Room of Constantine"), Rome

Overview

'Sala di Costantino' ('Hall of Constantine')
'Sala di Costantino' ('Hall of Constantine')

Photo by 0ro1 on Wikimedia Commons

'Sala di Costantino' ('Hall of Constantine')
'Sala di Costantino' ('Hall of Constantine')

The first room entering the apartment is the largest room and the last one painted, "Sala di Costantino" ("Room of Constantine"). The frescoes in this room were created after Raphael's death by his assistants Giulio Romano, Gianfrancesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle after Raphael's designs and sketches, between 1517 and 1524. The subject is the victory of Christianity over paganism, representing scenes from the life of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, who officially recognized the Christian faith. The frescoes in this room are:

The Vision of the Cross

The Vision of the Cross
The Vision of the Cross

Photo by Artworksforever on Wikimedia Commons

"The Vision of the Cross" on the East wall, painted between 1520 and 1524. Executed after Raphael's designs, it is believed it was painted by his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle. It depicts Constantine's and his soldiers' vision of a great cross sent by Christian God before the battle of the Mivian Bridge against Roman Emperor Maxentius. The vision promised victory if they had the Chi-Rod sign, the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, painted on their standards. Constantine won the battle and this is considered the beginning of Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge

Photo by Artworksforever on Wikimedia Commons

"The Battle of the Milvian Bridge" on the South wall, painted between 1520 and 1524. Executed after Raphael's designs, it is believed it was painted by his assistant Giulio Romano. It depicts Constantine's battle of the Mivian Bridge against Roman Emperor Maxentius in 312 AD. Following a vision of a great cross before the battle sent by God, Constantine and his soldiers had the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek, Chi-Rod, painted on their standards. They won the battle, ending the Tetrarchy and making Constantine the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, and also starting his conversion to Christianity. Emperor Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle, a moment depicted in the fresco. To celebrate the victory, Constantine erected the "Arch of Constantine", which certainly attributes his victory to divine intervention.

The Baptism of Constantine

The Baptism of Constantine
The Baptism of Constantine

Photo by Artworksforever on Wikimedia Commons

"The Baptism of Constantine" on the West wall, painted between 1517 and 1524. Executed after Raphael's designs, it is believed it was painted by his assistant Gianfrancesco Penni. It represents Emperor Constantine kneeling down to receive the sacrament from Pope Sylvester in the Lateran Baptistery of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, as recounted in the "Acts of Sylvester" and the "Liber Pontificalis". In another version of the events, narrated in Eusebius's "Life of Constantine", Constantine was baptized in 337 A.D. during his final illness before his death by the Arian Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, a distant relative, in the greek city of Nicomedia (present Izmit in Turkey). It was believed that he chose to get baptized on his death bed to be in less danger to sin and not go to heaven. As it was done in the other frescoes from the Raphael's Rooms, Pope Clement VII's features were used for painting Pope Sylvester in the fresco, as during Pope Clement's pontificate the work on the frescoes was resumed.

The Donation of Constantine

The Donation of Constantine
The Donation of Constantine

Photo by Artworksforever on Wikimedia Commons

"The Donation of Constantine" on the North wall, painted between 1520 and 1524. Executed after Raphael's designs, it is believed it was painted by one of his assistants, Gianfrancesco Penni or Giulio Romano. It depicts Emperor Constantine kneeling before Pope Sylvester and offering him the city of Rome, symbolized by the golden statue. It was based on a Roman imperial decree (Diplom) by which the Emperor Constantine the Great supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope. Later the decree was proved to had been fabricated in the 8th century. Lorenzo Valla, an Italian Catholic priest and Renaissance humanist, is credited with first exposing the fact that the decree was not real around 1440.

Ceiling

The ceiling fresco is "Triumph of the Christian religion" and was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII and painted by Tommaso Laureti between 1582 and 1585. It represents the destruction of pagan idols and their replacement with the image of Christ, ordered by Emperor Constantine throughout the empire. The central panel is surrounded by allegorical female figures representing the eight Italian provinces and three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.