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

The Oath of Leo III

Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

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.