The School of Athens


Art, religion and philosophy. Three words that have always been connected with each other through the history of the World because of the relation between them is essential, it is impossible to think one of these concepts without thinking the other two. For example, even a work of art which promises not to include any kind of religious motives can include traces of religion because of its anti-theological pattern. As a consequence of this mutual connection, to mention the existence of a religion that alleges not to have any sort of philosophical or ideational background would be hilarious. Art, philosophy and religion are fields of examination separately, however, being part of cultures, karma fields have come into existence. In fact, the School of Athens is seen as the marriage of these three fields In this examination and I will be talking about this marriage which is still interesting and worth to see live.

July, sunny day in Rome. You are going to the Vatican Museum after having queued thirty minutes or more excitedly and eagerly trying to imagine the greatness of the masterpieces you have been hearing all your life. And after the museum, you are going to taste the best gelato of the World in Rome. To make you experience this vibe a little, I put a song to listen while you read. Tickets, please!


Rafaello, one of the most famous painters of renaissance and the painter of The Transfiguration and The Marriage of the Virgin, was recommended to the Pope by the famous architect of his own era, Donato Bramante. Sanzio was chosen out of the masters like Perugino and Signorelli, and upon the invitation of Pope Julius II and he went to Rome. He made frescoes in Papal Palace. The School of Athens is one of these francoes and stays in the signing room of Pope. This is still a very important work of art because of many reasons: The importance of science, philosophy and art and the contribution of these fields to each other. The relationship and the importance of these fields lead the history up to the start of an era: Renaissance

Just in the opposite of the wall, there is another painting of Rafaello: Disputation of the Holy Sacrament. In contrast to The School of Athens, this is a religious painting. It is not hard to realise Sanzio’s desire for subjecting theology and philosophy by his works of art looking at each other in the same hall. I believe reciprocal placing of these two painting has a meaning. By the force of ideational period which renaissance brought, to reach the reality, the mind and the faith were two needed elements. And that these paintings were placed reciprocally summarizes the pattern of thoughts of the era.


If we take a look at the painting, the first outstanding element is that Aristotle and Platon are at the centre of the painting. Then, the people occupying the painting having been drawn by remaining faithful to a certain dissection pattern. The main theme of the painting was designed in a three-stepped patternmaterial, earthly and intellectual.

While the intellectuals dealing with the material subjects are placed above, the intellectuals coping with mathematics and geometry, together with Euclides in the centre, are positioned on the right of the underside. On the left, there are naturalists including mathematicians with Pisagor in the central place. İbn-i Rüşd is the figure reaching ahead with a turban on his head and he is in the front on the left of the painting.

With his comment on the work of art, Raffaello made Aristotelianism stronger and revived it. In order to reach the people who are dealing with metaphysical and spiritual sciences, it is mandatory to move up between the ladder of these two fields. Between this ladder, in fact, we can see Diogenes with his copper bowl in an isolated manner from all the earthly events. If we again turn back to the centre of the painting, while Platon is standing up showing the sky with his hand, he wants to underline the absolute reality of the world of ideas while showing a dismissive manner of the world of materials. Moreover, he wants to highlight that the basis of philosophy is actually ideals. In the other hand, Platon holds the book of ‘Timeaus’ and Aristotle being in the centre of the painting with Platon, shows his palm in contrast with Platon – this is actually a representation of the materialism of Aristotle – and in the other hand, Aristotle keeps the book of ‘Ethica’. Socrates somehow draws attention while counting his fingers behind Platon. What his fingers actually wants to convey is that he wants to prove the method of ‘Socratic Dialogues’. In the painting, there are also many other philosophers, scientists and Raffaello himself. This means that we can find many more symbols and learn more from this school. However, I believe that the examples I have examined would be more than explanatory to understand the correlation of the inevitable triangle: Art, philosophy and religion.

Front look of “The School of Athens”

The time that the painting was made corresponds to the High Renaissance Period. It consequently corresponds to the end of the Medieval Ages when people were blinded with the dominance of religious ignorance. Raffaello, through this painting donated to the Vatican, showed that the religious ignorance was taken off. If we do the evaluation with an analytic point of view, before the Renaissance times were dominated by religion; neither art nor philosophy and science developed in anyways. After realising this fact to the accompaniment of decreasing value of bigoted religious ideas, Europe passed to the Renaissance Period and as we all know, later on, it was going to be the Golden Age of history. I can say, to reach the golden point, we need at first to be in the jet black darkness, to be then aware of the greatness of light. That’s what Europe experienced after an ignorant religious period. It was the Golden Age, also because art, philosophy and religion met at the same point in Europe and created the perfect balance for the 15th and 16th centuries.

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