Raphael: The Disputation of the Sacrament/ The triumph of Religion (1509-1510)


(Vatican, Rome, Italy)


A fresco by the Italian master Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – 1520). This fresco is the counterpart of the famous "School of Athens" fresco in the Stanza della Segnatura (see this link for that fresco: Raphael - The School of Athens). Whereas the school of Athens fresco is about the rational truth - the triumph of philosophy , this fresco is about the spiritual truth/ theology - the triumph of religion. The fresco is divided into two parts. The upper part is the Triumphant Church with the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Christ between the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist, and the Holy Spirit in the center). Seated in a hemicycle on the clouds are patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament (from left to right): Saint Peter, Adam, Saint John the Evangelist, David, Saint Laurence of Rome, Judas Maccabeus, Saint Stephen, Moses, Saint James the elder, Abraham and Saint Paul. To the left and right of the Holy Spirit are 4 putti who are holding the gospels of the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The lower part is the Militant Church. In the middle is an altar with a monstrance with the Eucharistic host. Left and right of the altar is a host of theologians, and historical figures who are engaged in a discussion regarding the Transubstantiation the (the change of substance by which the bread and the wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Christ). Sitting next to the altar are the four four doctors of the Western Church: Pope Gregory I (a portrait of pope Julius II) and saint Jerome of Stridon are seated to the left of the altar, Augustine of Hippo and saint Ambrose of Milan to the right. also among the group are Pope Sixtus IV (the uncle of Pope Julius II), the Dominican friar and preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), the Italian artist Fra Angelico (1395-1455) and the famous poet Dante Alighieri (he is in the right group dressed in red and sporting a laurel wreath). The bald man on the left reading a book and leaning over a railing is Raphael's mentor and Renaissance architect Donato Bramante (1444-1514). The books scattered around the floor are the Bible, the Epistularum Moralium by Seneca and De Civitate Dei by Augustine of Hippo. Fresco from 1509-1510.

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