By Martina Bollini

On 1st August 1514 Raphael was appointed architect of St. Peter’s. Raphael succeeded his fellow citizen Bramante, who had passed away earlier that year. Their native city Urbino was an outstanding architectural center in the latter part of the 15th century: in order to create a model town, Federico da Montefeltro employed notable architects such as Leonbattista Alberti, Luciano Laurana, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and the young Baccio Pontelli. In addition to these illustrious influences, Raphael’s training with Pietro Perugino was also of pivotal importance for the maturation of his architectonical language. Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin (1504) clearly recalls Perugino’s Delivery of the Keys, painted more than twenty years earlier.

During his Florentine years (1504-08), Raphael developed an interest towards classical architecture that was to be decisive, as documented by a drawing of the Pantheon made around 1506 and by the background of the later Madonna del Baldacchino. In Rome, Bramante and the remains of antique buildings provided him unlimited sources of inspiration, as shown in the School of Athens

Rapahel was busy with his first architectonical commissions for Agostino Chigi when he was named papal architect in 1514, together with the elder Fra Giocondo and Giuliano da Sangallo. They both died in the following months, leaving Raphael alone to face enormous tasks. His first project for St. Peter’s dates back to the summer of 1514. Concercing his intentions he wrote:

“Vorrei trovar le belle forme degli edifice antichi, nè so se il volo sarà d’Icaro. Me ne porge una gran luce Vitruvio, ma non tanto che basti”.

Before his premature death in 1520, Raphael was involved in a number of prestigious architectonical commissions. Unfortunately, few of his projects were completed, and fewer have survived.

Reference: Raffaello architetto, edited by C. L. Frommel, S. Ray S., M. Tafuri, Milan 1984.

Further reading: John Shearman, Raphael as Architect, in “Journal of the Royal Society of Arts”, 116 (5141) (April 1968), pp. 388-409.

The town of Urbino.

Raphael, The marriage of the Virgin, 1504, oil on panel, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Pietro Perugino, The Delivery of the Keys, 1481-1482, fresco, Sistine chapel, Apostolica Palce, Vatican City. 

Raphael, Interior of the Pantheon, c. 1506, pen and ink, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Raphael, Madonna del Baldacchino, 1507-08, Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina, Florence.

Raphael, Schools of Athens, 1509–1511, fresco, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.

Raphael, Plan of the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo, Pen and bistre on white paper, divided into squares by etching, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Raphael, St. Peter’s Plan.

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