Room of the Segnatura

The Room of the Segnatura contains Raphael's most famous frescoes. Besides being the first work executed by the great artist in the Vatican they mark the beginning of the high Renaissance. The room takes its name from the highest court of the Holy See, the "Segnatura Gratiae et Iustitiae", which was presided over by the pontiff and used to meet in this room around the middle of the 16th century. Originally the room was used by Julius II (pontiff from 1503 to 1513) as a library and private office. The iconographic programme of the frescoes, which were painted between 1508 and 1511, is related to this function. It was certainly established by a theologian and meant to represent the three greatest categories of the human spirit: Truth, Good and Beauty. Supernatural Truth is illustrated in the Disputation over the Most Holy Sacrament (theology), while rational Truth is illustrated in the School of Athens (philosophy). Good is expressed in the Cardinal and Theological Virtues and the Law. Beauty is represented in the Parnassus with Apollo and the Muses. The frescoes of the ceiling are connected with the scenes below them. The allegorical figures of Theology, Philosophy, Justice and Poetry allude in fact to the faculties of the spirit painted on the corresponding walls. Under Leo X (pontiff from 1513 to 1521) the room was used as a small study and music room, in which the pontiff also kept his collection of musical instruments. The original furnishings of the time of Julius II were removed and replaced with a new wooden wainscot, the work of Fra Giovanni da Verona. The wood covered all the walls with the exception of that of the Parnassus, where, for reasons of space, the same decoration, still visible today, was painted in fresco. The wooden wainscot was probably destroyed following the Sack of Rome in 1527 and in its place, during the pontificate of Paul III (pontiff from 1534 to 1549) a wainscot in chiaroscuro was painted by Perin del Vaga.