Quite often, the museum is so busy that the crowd is ‘pushed’ through the halls. We probably will not have much time to look at the frescos, but hopefully will be able to take a good look at the third stanza (the Expulsion of Heliodorus).
The frescos in the stanza of Heliodorus (Web Gallery of Art) were painted between 1512 and 1514. On the walls of this room you will see the Meeting of Leo the Great and Atilla, and across from this fresco the Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple (floor map).
The two windowed walls feature the Mass at Bolsena and the Deliverance of St Peter.
What is interesting is that on Sunday you visited the Mamertine where the cell is located where St Peter was held prisoner. Raphael painted a prison cell that is quite different from the one that you saw.
At the time that Raphael painted this stanza, Leo X had just succeeded his predecessor Julius II in 1513. This was bound to have consequences. It is known that Leo X insisted that he, not Julius, was to be depicted.
The Expulsion of Heliodorus, the Mass at Bolsena and the Deliverance of St Peter are counted among Raphael’s best work.
The Mass at Bolsena depicts the transubstantiation of the sacred host during the consecration (the belief that during the celebration of mass the host and the wine actually become the flesh and blood of Christ). A priest who doubted whether this was actually true, was celebrating Mass at Bolsena when the host began to bleed. The man on his knees who is looking at the sign from above is Julius II.
“As in The Expulsion of Heliodorus, Raphael here made Julius II a witness of a miracle that took place in the past. On 7 September 1506 Julius had stopped at the cathedral at Orvieto to see the relic of the cloth that was used to wipe the blood from the Eucharist, and thereby to demonstrate his personal connection with the miracle for which Urban IV had instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi.” Stephanie Buck and Peter Hohenstatt, ‘Raphael’ Könemann, Köln 1998 p.72
We will also take a brief look at the Stanza dell’Incendio (Web Gallery of Art). The subjects of this stanza, which was painted between 1514 and 1517, were decided by Pope Leo X. We will only look at the Fire in the Borgo (the district we’re in now).
The figure on the left who is carrying an old man on his shoulders was used by Bernini for his sculpture ‘Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius’ that we saw earlier in the Villa Borghese. The Sala di Costantino belongs to the other Stanze, and yet Raphael had almost no part in its decoration. He only made a few sketches as can be seen below.
Bernini, who studied art in the Vatican thoroughly and for a long time in his youth, used in 1619 a motif of Raphaël’s fresco ‘Fire in the Borgo’ for his sculpture group: Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius.