RAFFAELLO Sanzio
(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

View of the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo

1514
Fresco
Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

This view shows the west wall of the room with the scene Coronation of Charlemagne, and the north wall with the scene Oath of Leo III.

Between 1514 and 1517 Raphael and his workshop frescoed the walls of the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo at Leo X's behest. The scenes depicted clearly relate to the new pope. They consist of four episodes from the history of the church during the Carolingian age, each of which has a pope named Leo. Leo X had found the theme of Leo I and Attila already present in the program of the Stanza d'Eliodoro, but he related it to himself by introducing his portrait features. This painted identification with predecessors sharing his name is one he continued in the Stanza dell'Incendio with stories of the popes Leo III and Leo IV: in each case the papal protagonist named Leo has Leo X's facial features.

In the first fresco Pope Leo III is taking the oath of purification at the altar of St Peter's in 800; he did so to clear himself of false charges in front of Charlemagne and a Roman ecclesiastical assembly. The second scene shows Charlemagne subsequent coronation as emperor in St Peter's. The pope crowns the emperor; in the foreground servants bring in gifts for the pope. The last two episodes date from the time of Leo IV. In response to the people's plea the pope extinguishes by benediction a fire that was threatening the Vatican suburb Borgo. Finally, the pope defeats a fleet of Saracen pirates near Ostia; in the foreground the prisoners are presented to Leo.

The base wall of the room has herm caryatids in between which sit secular rulers who served the church and papacy.