The Fire in the Borgo - by Raphael

The dramatic event described in this fresco, from which the whole room takes its name (incendio meaning conflagration), is the fire in the Borgo, which took place in 847 during the reign of Leo IV. A vicious fire was threatening to destroy the Borgo, the district of Rome located between the Castel SantAngelo and St. Peters Basilica. In the foreground we see men, women, and children trying desperately to escape the flames by climbing over collapsing walls. On the right-hand side, women are bringing containers of water with which to extinguish the fire. The group of figures in the left foreground alludes to Aeneas, the mythical founder of Rome who carried his father, Anchises, out of burning Troy on his shoulder. In the background we see Leo IV stopping the flames from the loggia of St. Peter's simply by making the sign of the cross. In his depiction of the men, women, and children in the foreground and background, Raphael reveals himself to be a master of emotions. This fresco, which numbers among Raphael's most famous compositions, is also an important architectural document, showing the facade of Old St. Peters, which was sacrificed to the construction of the new basilica in the sixteenth century.