Sunday, 14 January 2007

Apostolic Palace III: Raphael's Loggia

We're still on the tour of the Palazzo Apostolico in the Vatican. After leaving the Sala Regia, we passed into the long Sala Ducale, used traditionally for the reception of lesser princes and nobles and (more recently) for the diplomatic corps Christmas party. Above you can see an old shot of John Paul II in the Sala.

The rest of the tour was devoted to a stroll along the Loggie, which are on three levels surrounding the Cortile di San Damaso. We were under the ever watchful eyes of Swiss Guards, who kindly saluted us as we encountered them. The lift (or elevator if you're a yank) is one of the finest I've seen - wood panelled, with a distinguished list of users (not only Popes but the likes of Her Majesty the Queen) and, instead of floor numbers, rather civilised names like Loggia III or Belvedere.

Artistically, the most noteworthy loggia is that decorated by Raphael, on the second level, which used to be open to the public as part of the Vatican Museums (see early editions of Georgina Mason's Companion Guide to Rome). The first twelve sections cover Old Testament Salvation History (many echoing Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel) and the thirteenth that of the Incarnation. Little wonder that these frescoes are known as the 'Bible of Raphael.' Here's one example, from the Creation cycle:

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