The Raphael Cartoons: The Sacrifice at Lystra

The Raphael Cartoons are considered one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance. These huge, full-scale designs for tapestries were created by Raphael – one of the most important masters of the Renaissance period. Commissioned by Pope Leo X, shortly after his election in 1513, for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace, the Cartoons depict key episodes of the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the founding fathers of the Christian church.

The Sacrifice at Lystra (Acts 14: 8 – 18)

The apostles Paul and Barnabas continue their mission in the city of Lystra (now Hatunsaray in modern Turkey), where the inhabitants mistake them for pagan gods and, following their tradition, prepare to offer them a sacrifice.

Paul, wearing his red tunic, and Barnabas, standing behind him, heal a lame man who is then able to walk. Witnessing this miracle, the city's inhabitants mistake Paul for the god Hermes (corresponding to the Roman god Mercury) and Barnabas for Zeus (corresponding to the Roman god Jupiter) and prepare a sacrifice to honour them.

Following their beliefs, the people of Lystra start preparing a sacrifice to honour the two apostles. Paul turns away from the sacrifice in disapproval and tears his robe in anger, while Barnabas prays for the crowd to stop.

The corresponding tapestry was displayed in the Sistine Chapel on St Stephen day, 26 December, 1519. It is probable that Raphael saw it and even supervised its installation in the chapel.

Zoom in and explore the Cartoon in ultra-high definition

Click on points of interest to discover more about the painting's characters, symbolism and Raphael's masterly technique.

You can also explore ultra-high resolution colour, 3D and infrared photography of the Cartoon, revealing previously hidden details.

  • Colour (visible paint layer) – Explore the Cartoon's paint layer, including Raphael's individual brushstrokes.
  • 3D (surface layer) – Discover evidence of the Cartoon's treatment over the past 500 years, including any restoration work, by exploring its unique surface texture.
  • Infrared (drawing layer) – Peer below the paint surface to Raphael's original charcoal underdrawings.

Select your layer from the key or use the scroll bar to transition between the layers and observe subtle differences between the charcoal underdrawing and the paint layer, and the paint layer and the surface texture.

Raphael Cartoon, The Sacrifice at Lystra (Acts 14: 8 – 18), cartoon for a tapestry, by Raphael, about 1515 – 16, Italy. Museum number: ROYAL LOANS.6. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021

EXPLORE THE CARTOONS

Background image: Raphael Cartoon, The Sacrifice at Lystra (Acts 14: 8 – 18), cartoon for a tapestry, by Raphael, about 1515 – 16, Italy. Museum number: ROYAL LOANS.6. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021