Raphael’s Tapestries Rome

"Death of Ananias"

Apart from Michelangelo’s ceiling, Raphael’s tapestries constitute the most famous works of art in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums in Rome. In order to better protect the tapestries, they are usually not on display in the chapel itself, but in the Vatican Pinotheca.

Raphael’s Tapestries Rome

History and description

Raphael's Tapestries Sistine Chapel Rome
“Miraculous Draught of Fishes”

In 1515 Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to design the famous tapestries. At the time the artist was still working on the decorations of what are now known as Raphael’s Rooms. It is really a miracle that he had any time left, since he was also working on the construction of the new St. Peter’s Basilica.

Raphael designed his tapestries on cartoons of several pieces of paper glued together. They depict 10 episodes from the lives of the saints Peter and Paul. After he finished the cartoons in (probably) 1516, they were sent to Brussels, where they were turned into tapestries by the workshop of Pieter van Aelst. The materials used are wool, silk and gilded silver thread. The first time they were exhibited was in December 1519.

500th Anniversary Exhibition

The tapestries are not normally seen in the Sistine Chapel. In order to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Raphael‘s death, they were displayed in their original position from February 17th till 23rd 2020. The last time this happened for a prolonged period of time was in 1983.


Seven of the cartoons can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The tapestries themselves, for motives of preservation, are only shown a couple at the time, in the Pinacotheca.

The original location of the tapestries was at eye level, above the make-believe curtains painted on the lower part of the chapel walls.

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