Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura ★★★

Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Rome, Italy (Photo by Oro1)

The Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican's Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) is a papal apartment frescoed by Raphael with the School of Athens and other masterpieces

The School of Athens (1511) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Rome, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
The Parnassus (1511) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Rome, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
Disputation of Holy Sacrament (1509–10) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Rome, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
The Cardinal and Theological Virtues (1508–11) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Rome, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
The ceiling (1508) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Rome, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)

The second Raphael Room is perhaps the highlight, the Stanza della Segnatura (1508–11), containing Raphael's famous School of Athens (pictured above).

This mythical gathering of the philosophers from across the ages is also a catalog of the Renaissance, with many philosophers actually bearing portraits of Raphael's greatest fellow artists.

These include his mentor the architect Bramante (on the right as balding Euclid, bent over as he draws on a chalkboard), Leonardo da Vinci (as Plato, the bearded patriarch in the center pointing heavenward), and Raphael himself (looking out at us from the lower right corner next to his white-robed buddy Il Sodoma).

In the midst of painting this masterpiece, Raphael took a sneak peek at what his heretofore rival Michelangelo was busy painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel down the hall.

He was so impressed that he returned to the School of Athens and added in a sulking portrait of Michelangelo (as Heraclitus) sitting on the steps in his stonecutter's boots. (We know he added it because his original cartoon, or full-scale preparatory drawing, survived.)

It was a true moment of growth for the cocky young master, who realized even he could learn from the genius of another. In fact, he soon adapted his style and color palate, reflecting Michelangelo's influence.

Another important fresco here is the Disputation of the Sacrament, with three more portraits. Toward the middle of the right side, half-hidden behind a golden-robed church dignitary, stands a dour-looking man in red with a laurel-leaf crown—the Tuscan poet Dante, whose Inferno revolutionized Italian literature by using the Tuscan vernacular rather than Latin, and became the basis for the Italian language.

Look also on the far left for a pious-looking man in black with just a wisp of white hair remaining—it's a portrait of the monastic painter Fra' Angelico, whose great work in Rome lies just after these rooms. Bramante (again) bends over the railing in front and thumps a book (probably arguing some finer point of architecture).

Photo gallery
  • , Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Italy (Photo by Oro1)
  • The School of Athens (1511) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Parnassus (1511) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Disputation of Holy Sacrament (1509–10) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Cardinal and Theological Virtues (1508–11) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The ceiling (1508) by Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza della Segnatura, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
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Tips

How long do the Raphael Rooms take?

The Raphael Rooms take about 25–40 minutes (more if you're a true fan), but expect to spend all day at the Vatican.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).