Donation of Constantine - by Raphael

After attaining sole rule over the Roman Empire, in around 313 Emperor Constantine supposedly promised Pope Sylvester I spiritual sovereignty over Rome, Italy, and the western half of the Roman Empire. The document known as the "Donation of Constantine," on which the medieval popes based claims for far-reaching spiritual and secular power, was revealed in the fifteenth century to be a forgery dating from around 800. Later popes continued to assert the validity of the act of donation, however, which this fresco in the Sala di Costantino also affirmed. In it, Constantine hands the pope, enthroned in the middle ground under a red baldachino and bearing the features of Clement VII, a golden statuette as a symbol of the city of Rome. This scene unfolds in the nave of Old St. Peter's Basilica and is remarkable for the precise depiction of the architecture of the church, which was destroyed in the sixteenth century. In addition to its importance as an art-historical document, Penni's depiction of the citizens of Rome, gathered in the basilica, camped in the foreground, and observing events from between the columns, is also worthy of appreciation.