Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino ☆☆☆

The wall featuring The Vision of the Cross (1520) by Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Rome, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
The wall featuring The Vision of the Cross (1520) by Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle

The Stanza di Constantino in the Vatican's Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) is a papal apartment frescoed by Raphael's students according to his designs

The fourth Raphael Room, the Stanza di Constantino (1517–24), is the least satisfying and was largely painted after Raphael's death according to his hastily sketched designs.

By far the most famous bit is the ceiling, densely and colorfully decorated by Sicilian artist Tomamso Laureti in 1582–85—several generations after Raphael's team finished the walls—for Pope Gregory XIII (though finished under Sixtus V).

The central panel—an airy, pink-and-green Classical/Reniassance space—depicts the Triumph of Christianity by showing a pedestal topped by a golden Crucifix, which has, apparently, literally pushed a pagan idol off that pedestal to lie broken on the floor. Not too subltle as far as metaphors go, but impressive for the painter's impeccable use of single point perspective and masterly foreshortening on those broken bits of "statue" on the "floor." It is surronded by representations of eight (at the time) regions of Italy and the three (at the time) continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.

As for the walls, Raphael's followers Giulio Romanoand Raffaellino del Colle adapted some of their master's original cartoons (preparatory sketches) into the newly fashionable Mannerist style of painting, a sort of pastel-infused, often exaggerated, short-lived offshot of the High Renaissance based on taking Michelangelo's innovations beyond their logical extremes.

Those two talented assistants probably painted most of the Battle at the Milvian Bridge (in which Emperor Constantine the Great fights his would-be deposer Maxentius in AD 313; the Milvian Bridge, incidentally, is still there, across a northerly bend of the Tiber through Rome's inner suburbs), the Vision of the Cross (under whose miraculous sign the emperor wins that famous battle), and the Donation of Rome (in which Emperor Constantine, in thanks for his vistory, converts the entire empire to Christianity and gives princely power over Rome to Pope Sylvester I).

Apparently, a less apt pupil of Raphael's finished off the cycle with a weak Baptism of Constantine.

All of that, by the way, is a bit of a stretch of the historical truth.

Though Constantine the Great did, indeed, decree that Rome officially become Christian—the very reason later Christians gave him the sobriquet "The Great"—the vast empire actually remained a pluralistic one in which all the other existing religious cults and pagan sects were allowed to continue on.

The Emperor himself supposedly did not even convert (or at least was not officially baptized) until he was on his deathbed—and all of this reportedly was done largely to please the growing cohort of powerful Roman patricians who were Christians, most notably his own mother, St. Helena.

But, of course, the walls of the pope's own personal apartment in the Vatican are no place to engage in these more nuanced interpretations of ancient history, realpolitick, or filial accommodations. Here, the divine calling is unimpeachable, true faith is unshakable, and the Church always triumphs.

Photo gallery
  • The wall featuring The Vision of the Cross (1520) by Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Battle of Milvian Bridge (1520–24) by Giulio Romano, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Donation of Constantine (1520–24) by The School of Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Baptism of Constantine (1517) by the School of Raphael, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Vision of the Cross (1520) by Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The ceiling by Tommaso Laureti (1582–85), with The Triumph of Christian Religion in the center, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Triumph of Christian religion (1582) by Tommaso Laureti, Raphael Rooms: The Stanza di Constantino, 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.).