Putting more masterpieces in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to join his ceiling frescoes and Last Judgement wall might seem as superfluous as adding more diamonds to the Crown Jewels.
But the creator of those masterpieces is Raphael, Michelangelo’s Renaissance contemporary and rival, so the Vatican has made an exception for a brief stay.
For the first time in centuries, all 12 tapestries designed by Raphael have been hung on the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel as part of celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.
The tapestries, which were weaved in Brussels by the famed studio of Pieter van Aelst from Raphael’s sketches, depict scenes from the Acts of the Apostles, such as The Stoning of St. Stephen and St. Paul Preaching in Athens.
For the next week, they are back in the Sistine Chapel, where they were between the time Michelangelo finished painting the ceiling in 1512 and when he began painting the massive Last Judgement wall behind the main altar in 1536.
All 12, made with silk, wool and gold and silver thread, have been painstakingly restored by Vatican Museum conservationists in the last 10 years.