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PHOTOS: After 500 years, Raphael’s tapestries return to the Sistine Chapel

Twelve tapestries by Renaissance master Raphael are back on display in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, nearly five centuries since they were last shown in the space together.

“They were conceived for this space, and so we thought that it was the best way to celebrate the 500 years of the death of the divine Raphael in this way,” Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, told Reuters.

Raphael was a contemporary and rival of Michelangelo, the artist whose iconic frescoes adorn the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and walls.

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Based on sketches by Raphael, the tapestries were weaved in Brussels at the studio of Pieter van Aelst, but only seven were completed before his death. They depict scenes from the Acts of the Apostles and are made of silk, wool, and silver-gilded and golden threads.

Designed specifically for the Sistine Chapel, all 12 tapestries last hung there in the late 1500s. Previous exhibitions only included a selection of the set.

Conservators painstakingly restored them over the past 10 years. But if you want to see them in person, you need to go to the Vatican now.

For their protection, the tapestries will only be on display this week. Then they return to climate-controlled museums around the world.

Below, see the tapestries on display:

Tapestry "The blinding of Elymas." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “The blinding of Elymas.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry “St.Paul preaching at Athens.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry “The conversion of Saul.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry "The death of Ananias." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “The death of Ananias.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry "Christ's charge to Peter." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “Christ’s charge to Peter.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry "The healing of the lame man." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “The healing of the lame man.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry "The miraculous draught of fishes." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “The miraculous draught of fishes.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry "The sacrifice of Lystra." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “The sacrifice of Lystra.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters


Tapestry "The stoning of Stephen." Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

Tapestry “The stoning of Stephen.” Photo courtesy of Governatorato SCV/Direzione dei Musei via Reuters

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