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Second Raphael Room - “Stanza di Eliodoro” ("Room of Heliodorus"), Rome

Overview

'Stanza di Eliodoro' ('Room of Heliodorus')
'Stanza di Eliodoro' ('Room of Heliodorus')

Photo by 0ro1 on Wikimedia Commons

'Stanza di Eliodoro' ('Room of Heliodorus')
'Stanza di Eliodoro' ('Room of Heliodorus')

Photo by 0ro1 on Wikimedia Commons

The second room is "Stanza di Eliodoro" ("Room of Heliodorus"), and was the second room completed, painted between 1511 and 1514. This was the room where the Pope had his private audiences. The frescoes depict the endless protection given by God to the Church. Raphael's style changed from the Stanza della Segnatura. He represented fewer, larger figures so that their actions and emotions have more direct impact on the viewers, and he used theatrical lighting effects to spotlight certain figures and heighten tension. He painted dramatic narratives here instead of the static images painted in the "Stanza della Segnatura" ("Room of the Segnatura"), the Pope's library.

Ceiling

Ceiling
Ceiling

The ceiling was painted by Raphael, though there are still some fragments in the arches from the original paintings attributed to Bramantino, Luca Signorelli, Lorenzo Lotto, and Cesare da Sesto. Raphael's paintings represent four episodes of the Old Testament: "Noah leaving the ark", from Genesis 8: 15-20, "The sacrifice of Isaac", from Genesis 22: 1-14, "Moses before the burning bush", from Exodus 3: 1-12 and "Jacob's dream", from Genesis 28: 10-22.

The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple

The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple
The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple

"The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple" on the East wall, painted between 1511 and 1513. The name of the room comes from this fresco. It is inspired by the biblical events from 2 Maccabees, Chapter 3, verses 21-28. After losing the Battle of Magnesia with the Romans in 190 BC, the Seleucid Empire found itself in dire financial difficulties, so around 138 BC Hellenisting King Seleucus IV Philopator, seventh king of the Seleucid dynasty, son of Antiochus III the Great, sent his minister Heliodorus to Jerusalem to collect the treasure deposited in the Temple of Jerusalem. Responding to the high priest Onias' prayer, the focal point of the fresco, God sends an armored horseman assisted by two young men, "remarkably strong, gloriously beautiful and splendidly dressed", who drove Heliodorus out of the temple. Represented in the fresco are also Pope Julius II, who commissioned the frescoes, witnessing the events from his litter, and Marcantonio Raimondi, engraver and friend of Raphael as the chair bearer on the left, and Raphael himself as the chair bearer on the right.

The Mass at Bolsena

The Mass at Bolsena
The Mass at Bolsena

"The Mass at Bolsena" on the South wall, painted between 1512 and 1514. It represents the miracle that happened in 1263 during a mass at the church of Santa Cristina in Bolsena, Italy. The mass was celebrated by a Bohemian priest who had doubts about the transubstantiation, which states that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ at the moment of consecration during the Mass. During the mass, the consecrated sacramental bread started bleeding on the corporal, the small cloth where the bread and wine rest during the mass. The blood spotted Corporal of Bolsena is currently displayed in Orvieto Cathedral. In the fresco, Pope Julius II is represented kneeling to the right of the altar, and Raphael himself as the Swiss Guard in the group of four, to the lower right, facing out. Pope Julius II's daughter, Felice della Rovere, is at the top of the stairs on the left, in dark clothes. The four cardinals to the right were identified as Julius' relatives Leonardo Grosso della Rovere, Raffaello Riario, Tommaso Riario, and Agostino Spinola.

The Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila

The Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila
The Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila

"The Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila" on the West wall, painted in 1514. The fresco is inspired by the meeting from 452 A.D. between Pope Leo I and Attila the Hun, ending with the Pope persuading Attila to turn back from his invasion of Italy. According to the legend, the miraculous apparitions of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the sky, bearing swords, convinced Attila to turn back. The background shows the colosseum, builings, columns and obelisks, suggesting the meeting took place near Rome, but in reality, it took place in northern Italy, near Mantua. The fresco was completed after Pope Julius II's death, so even if it initially used his features to represent Pope Leo I, it was later changed to the new Pope Leo X's face instead for the Pope and for one of the cardinals in the fresco.

Liberation of St Peter

Liberation of St Peter
Liberation of St Peter

"Liberation of St Peter" on the North wall, painted in 1514. It depicts the miraculous liberation of the apostle Peter from prison by an angel the night before his trial, ordered by King Herod. They passed the sleeping guards without being noticed, all the doors of the prison having apparently opening on their own for Peter to escape, an event described in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12. It is broken down in three scenes. The central scene represents the moment when the angel appears in Saint Peter's cell, surrounded by light, and wakes him up. The fresco being painted over a window makes it seem as if Peter's cell is elevated on a higher floor, reached by stairs on the left and right. In the scene on the left, the guards apparently notice something, there is a commotion, dismay between them and one of them seems to enquire his bewildered comrades about what's happening. On the right, the angel serenely guides Saint Peter past the sleeping guards. The fresco is a study in light, using both the natural light from the moon and presumably torches, with the guards' armors reflecting it in the scene on the left, and the light irradiated by the angel, emphasizing its divinity and illuminating the cell in the central scene and their path, on the right, again reflected in the guards' armors. The fresco is also a reference to Pope Julius II, who before being a Pope was titular cardinal at Saint Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains).