With the numbers of people visiting the Vatican Museums growing quickly, conservation of priceless masterpieces has never been more important. A minimum of 20,000 people per day travel through the museums. The Raphael Rooms are some of the most popular attractions in the museums. Thousands of people stop in these rooms everyday on their way to the Sistine Chapel. At the same time as the construction of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael was competing with Michelangelo to ﬁnish his four rooms, covered in masterpieces. Next year, we will be announcing our plan to conserve these four magniﬁcent rooms using climate control. By adding air conditioning units, we can rest assured the restorations of these works will endure in much better condition.
The suite of rooms known as Raphael’s Stanze (stanza: room) are part of the private apartment of Pope Julius II della Rovere and his successors, until Gregory XIII. The rooms are situated on the second ﬂoor of the Apostolic Palace, directly above the Borgia Apartment. Apart from the Stanze proper, they also included the Sala degli Svizzeri (Room of the Swiss Guards), the Sala dei Chiaroscuri, the Chapel of Nicholas V (his private chapel), and the Logge.
Julius II’s bedroom (cubiculum), now closed to the public, communicated with the chapel and the Sala dei Chiaroscuri. It was preceded by a small antechamber that linked the Sala dei Chiaroscuri with the Stanza di Eliodoro. Julius II lived in this apartment from 1507, not wishing to live in the Borgia Apartment, since, as the master of ceremonies Paris de Grassis explained, “non volebat videre omni hora ﬁguram Alexandri praedecessoris sui”(“he did not want to see the image of his predecessor Alexander VI at every moment”).
The Stanze were frescoed by Raphael and his assistants between 1508 and 1524. The decoration of these rooms marked the debut of the brilliant Roman career of Raphael, who took over from artists then much better known, including his teacher Perugino and others. Parts of their works were destroyed to make way for those of the young master; the pre-existing paintings of Piero della Francesca, Bartolomeo della Gatta and Luca Signorelli were completely destroyed. There are four Stanze. They are cross-vaulted. Except for the Sala di Costantino, which forms part of the 13th-century wing of the Apostolic Palace, they are situated in the range of rooms built under Nicholas V. To the north they overlook the Cortile del Belvedere, and to the south.