Updates, Live

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Raphael, La Disputa del Sacramento

A fresco spanning Heaven and Earth, symbol of the nature of the Church. Above, Christ is joined by His Holly Mother and Saint John the Baptist. They are surrounded by a gallery of biblical personages beginning with Adam and spanning Old and New Testament. The Father sits above the Son, .a dove can be seen below: the Holly Spirit. The whole is guarded by angels.

Below, the Monstrance on the Altar, flanked by the Four Doctors of the Roman Church: Saint Gregory the Dialogist and Saint Jerome at the left of the Altar, Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose at the right. They are debating the mystery of Transubstantiation. Prelates, theologians, and scholars surround the Four Doctors and follow actively their debate.

The fresco is in the Stanza della Segnatura, the fourth room within the Stanze di Raffaelo in the Pallazo Apostolico. During the centuries, this Stanza della Segnatura served as private papal library, where the Holly Office was judging its cases.

Just a few words about Transubstantiation. It is the change of bread and wine into Body and Blood of Christ: according to the Catholic doctrine, the bread and wine used by the priest during Liturgy become not only symbolically, but in reality, the Body and Blood of Christ, while keeping the appearance of bread and wine. Thus, their true nature changes, while their appearance remains the same.There is a special moment within the Liturgy when the priest says a special sacramental formula and the Transubstantiation takes place.

Of course, the doctrines of the other Christian branches differ in this respect. For instance, the Eastern Orthodox doctrine brings some nuances. One of the most important Orthodox theologians of the 20th century, Father Alexander Schmemann, considers that there is not a unique moment when bread and wine change their nature: the whole Liturgy is a long Transubstantiation.

But let's come back to the fresco of Raphael. Each personage there has a precise identity. Let's zoom two details.

In the right hand corner we will find Dante, wearing red and sporting a laurel wreath (wiki). In front of him it's Pope Sixtus IV. The man following in front of Sixtus, dressed in the red Franciscan habit and wearing a cardinal hat, is Vigerio della Rovere: his theological works are thought to have influenced Raphael in the way he conceived this fresco (wiki). Well, the Pope in front of Cardinal Vigerio is Julius II. Add to them Savonarola, just on the back of Dante.

Disputa, detail (Dante)
no copyright infringement intended

In the left hand corner we'll have the surprise to find the great architect (and Raphael's mentor) Bramante: a bald figure leaning over a railing, keeping a book that seems to interest a couple of men around him. Bramante has his head turned toward a person pointing toward the Altar. What is the relation between that person and Bramante, what is the content of the discussion between the two, in which way the book from Bramante's hand supports the discussion? I can only speculate here.I'm sure there are art historians that have debated on this.

Disputa, detail (Bramante)
no copyright infringement intended



Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home