Palazzo di Nicolo V (Sistine Chapel), Vatican City, Rome

"Palazzo di Nicolo V (Sistine Chapel), Vatican City, Rome" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Friday 8th July 2011

Palazzo di Nicolo V (Sistine Chapel/Cappella Sistina), Vatican City, Rome

Before the migration to Avignon in 1309, the Pope and the Curia lived in Lateran palace. Eugenius III (1145-53) begun the construction of the first Vatican palace on the place of an ancient house, built close to St Peter's in 6th century and used for state occasions and for the accommodation of foreign sovereigns. In 1377 Gregory XI returned from Avignon and moved to the incomplete palace of Vatican, as it was dangerous living in Lateran, and here in 1378 the first conclave was held.

schema nicolov
schema nicolov

From 1447 to 1455 Nicolas V occupied himself with the finishing of construction and decoration of the palace. Sixtus IV completed it with the Chapel called after him Cappella Sistina. Alexander VI added Tower and Appartamenti Borgia (the Borgia Rooms). Julius II had Bramante build a facade "a loggia" (see on the pictures below) and Raphael with his pupils had to decorate and finish it. In the middle of 16th century Paul III created (A. da Sangallo the Younger) Sala Regia and Cappella Paolina. The big intervention in this heart of Vatican palaces was made by Urban VIII and Alexander VII, as they (G.L.Bernini) enlarged Sala Regia and constructed Scala Regia.

loggia di raffaello palazzonicolov

The Borgia Rooms.

This 6 rooms are named after Alexander VI (Roderigo Borgia), who adapted this place in Nicolas V's palace for his personal use, and had it decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio and his school (1492-95). These rooms evoke the memory about characteristic events of those times.

appartamento borgia
appartamento borgia

In 1493 here was celebrated the first marriage of Lucrezia Borgia (daughter of Roderigo) with Giovanni Sforza; the party had been concluded with the game between 50 courtesans, who had to pick up from 50 cups as much wedding sweets as possible ... using their own breasts.

In 1498, in one of the Borgia Rooms Cesare Borgia (son of Roderigo) murdered Pedro Calderon, who was thought to be the lover of Lucrezia Borgia.


In 1500 the lightning crashed the ceiling of the pope's apartment in time when Alexander VI was inside, but it didn't make any harm to the pope. By many it was considered as a divine sign of punishment to the cruel governor.

Two month later Cesare Borgia ordered to kill the second husband of Lucrezia, Alfonso d'Aragona, again in on of the Borgia Rooms. After the death of Alexander VI, the Borgia apartment was abandoned since the Borgia family were in disgrace, and it was not until 1889 that Leo XIII had the rooms restored by L. Seitz and opened them to the public.

Here in 1973 was arranged. The Gallery of Modern Religious Art. The works were presented by the artists from all over the world: S.Dali', P.Gauguin, A.Rodin W.Kandinsky, P.Picasso, F.Bacon, M.Ernst, P.Klee, Crocifissione by Flaviano Bodini, 1933; Crucifix by Henri Matisse, 1954; Gal.Modern Religious Art Pope, etc.

gal.modernrelart pope crocifissione bodini 1933 gal.modernrel art crucifix matisse

Stanze di Raffaello.

This series of rooms was built by Nicolas V, and the walls were originally painted by A.d.Castagno, P.d.Francesca, and B.Bonfigli. Julius II employed a group of great artists to continue the decoration, including L.Signorelli, Perugino, Sodoma, Bramantino, Peruzzi, Lotto, Ruysch. Bramante recommended his fellow citizen, Raffaello Sanzio, and the Pope sent for him, and set him to work immediately on his arrival to Rome in 1508. The result proved so satisfactory that Julius dismissed all the other painters, ordered their works to be destroyed, and commissioned Raphael to decorate the whole of this part of the Vatican. In the whole there are 4 rooms: Room I - Stanza dell'Incendio; Room II - Stanza della Segnatura; Room III - Stanza d'Eliodoro; Room IV - Sala di Costantino (painted after Raphael's death, by G.Romano).

Incendio di Borgo. (Stanza dell'Incendio) (1514-17)
Incendio di Borgo. (Stanza dell'Incendio) (1514-17)

Illustrates the fire that broke out in Borgo Santo Spirito in 847, and was miraculously extinguished when Leo IV made the sign of the Cross from the loggia of St Peter's. In the background, flames threaten the old church of St Peter's. On the left is a scene of the Burning of Troy, with naked figures scaling the walls and Aeneas carrying his father Anchises on his back, followed by his wife Creusa and their son Ascanius.

Disputation on the Holy Sacrament. (Stanza della Segnatura, it is the place where the pope signed bulls and briefs and was painted entirely by Raphael).

disputa del sacramento stanza della segnatura
disputa del sacramento stanza della segnatura

The fresco represents a discussion on the Eucharist but essentially intended as a glorification of Catholicism. In the celestial zone Christ appears between the Virgin and St John the Baptist; above is God the Father surrounded by angels; beneath, the Holy Dove between the four angels holding the book of Gospels; on the left are St Peter, Adam, St John the Evangelist, David, St Laurence, and Jeremiah; on the right, St Paul, Abraham, St James, Moses, St Stephen, and Judas Maccabaeus. In the middle of the terrestrial zone is a monstrance with the Host on an altar. On the right are Saints Augustine and Ambrose, and on the left Saints Gregory and Jerome; they are surrounded by an assembly of Doctors of the Church, popes, cardinals, dignitaries, and the faithful. On the right is the profile of Dante crowned with laurel.

Parnassus. (Stanza della Segnatura)

parnaso stanza della segnatura

Apollo is playing the violin in the shade of laurels, surrounded by the nine Muses and the great poets. Calliope is seated on the left, and behind her are Melpomene, Terpsichore and Polyhymnia; on the right, also seated, is Erato, and behind her are Clio, Thalia, Euterpe and Urania. In the group of poets on the left is the figure of the blind Homer, between Dante and Virgil; lower are Alcaeus, Corinna, Petrarch and Anacreon, with the voluptuous form of Sappho seated beside them. In the group on the right are Ariosto, Ovid, Tibullus and Propertius, and lower, Sannazaro, Horace and Pindar, seated.

School of Athens (Stanza della Segnatura).
It is on the wall facing Disputation, symbolizes the triumph of Philosophy, and forms a pendant to the triumph of Theology opposite. The setting is a portico, representing the palace of Science, a magnificent example of Renaissance architecture. At the sides are statues of Apollo and Minerva. On the steps are the greatest philosophers and scholars of all ages gathered round the two supreme masters, Plato and Aristotle. Plato (probably intended as a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci), points towards heaven, symbolizing his system of speculative philosophy, while Aristotle's calm gesture indicates the vast field of nature as the realm of scientific research.

scuola datene
scuola datene

At the top of the steps, on Aristotle's side, is the bald head and characteristic profile of Socrates; near him, in conversation, are Aeschines, Alcibiades, Xenophon, and others. At the foot of the steps on the left is Zeno, an old man with a beard, seen in profile; near him Epicurus, crowned with vine-leaves, is reading a book; in the foreground Pythagoras is writing out his harmonic tables, with Averroes, in a turban, and Empedocles looking over his shoulder. The young man sitting down is Federico Gonzaga, who was included by order of Julius II; the handsome youth standing up is Francesco Maria della Rovere. The seated figure of Heraclitus, isolated in the center foreground, was not part of the original composition; obviously inspired by Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel, it may, according to a recent suggestions, have been intended as a portrait of him.

On the right, around Aristotle, are the students of the exact sciences; standing at the foot of the steps is Ptolemy, with his back to the spectator, and because of a confusion with the Egyptian kings of the same name, wearing a crown. Opposite him is Zoroaster, holding a sphere. On the extreme right of the composition, Raphael has introduced portraits of himself and Sodoma. To the left is Archimedes or Euclid, surrounded by his disciples and bending over a blackboard on which he is tracing figures with a compass. The solitary figure in brown on the top of the steps is Diogenes, also thought to be a portrait of Michelangelo.

Liberation of St Peter. (Stanza d'Eliodoro, painted by Raphael in 1512-14; the subjects were nearly all chosen by Julius II).

liberazione di san pietro stanza deliodoro

On the fresco 3 night scenes, with remarkable light effects, illustrate 3 different episodes: in the middle, the interior of the prison is seen through a high barred window, with St Peter waking up as the angel frees him from his chains; on the left are the guards outside the prison; and on the right St Peter escaping with the angel.

Mass of Bolsena. (Stanza d'Eliodoro)

messa di bolsena

Represents the famous miracle which took place at Bolsena in 1263. A Bohemian priest, who had doubts about the doctrine of Transubstantiation, was convinced when he saw blood drop from the Host on to the altar cloth (the stained corporal is preserved in the cathedral at Orvieto). This alludes to the vow made by Julius II when, on his first expedition against Bolonia in 1506, he stopped at Orvieto to pay homage to the relic. He is shown kneeling opposite the priest, in place of Urban IV, the contemporary pope.

Chapel of Nicolas V. (6,60 x 4m)

cappella niccolina

Located close to Sala di Costantino and was entirely decorated with frescoes by Fra Angelico, painted between 1447 and 1451. These represents scenes from the lives of the deacon saints Stephen and Laurence; especially fine is the painting of St Stephen preaching. On the ceiling are the 4 Evangelists (see on the below picture) and on the pilasters the Doctors of the Church. (On the right: Sixtus II confers deaconate to St Laurence.)

sisto ii conferishe diaconato a san lorenzo

More Details:

Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) and Its Plan of the Ceiling

Palazzo di Nicolo V (Sistine Chapel/Cappella Sistina)
00120, Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
00165, Rome, Lazio,
Vatican City and Italy
Palazzo di Nicolo V (Sistine Chapel/Cappella Sistina) is Shown By "Map D Zone" As "8"
Subway: Cipro-Musei Vaticani, Metro A
Tel. +39 06.69884947
Fax +39 06.69885061
Opening time:
From April 1 to October 31: 8.45-16.45
From November 1 to March 31: 8.45-13.45
Closed all Sundays and holidays,except for the last Sunday of the month when the Musei are open with free admission.

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