The Pope’s Pornographic Bathroom

Posted on December 14, 2011 by


My Slate series on the Vatican climaxed, as it were, with a piece about my adventures getting in to the so-called Stufetta del Bibbiena, the bathroom decorated with erotic art by Raphael in 1516 – causing a good deal of outrage amongst some of the more reverent Catholic readers, even though the Vatican itself has begun to come to terms with its Renaissance history, when Popes were high-living Italian princes first, men of God second or third (refusing to denounce the Showtime series, for example, pictured above, where the Borgia Pope Alexander III, played by Jeremy Irons, behaves in a decidedly unchaste fashion…)

(A more detailed description of the adventure in the Vatican can be found in my book, The Sinner’s Grand Tour…)  The Papal hierarchy was very strict about taking cameras and video into the Stufetta, but I asked a New York artist to recreate the room at its Renaissance height, using my description and some very poor photos taken by a Catholic scholar in the 1930s…

The legendary Stufetta, decorated with erotica by Raphael in 1516 within the Pope's apartments in the Vatican.

Images of the frescos themselves are even harder to come by – but a copy of a copy of the lewdest ended up in the Bibliothèque National in Paris.


            In the original, the satyr’s manhood has been scratched out and restored with white plaster – making it much larger, and far more visible.

A metaphor for the futility of censorship no doubt…