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“The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple” by Raphael

"The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple" by Raphael
“The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple” by Raphael

“The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple” by Raphael depicts the episode in which a horseman assisted by two youths drives Heliodorus out the Temple in Jerusalem as he attempts to seize its treasures and money.

The narrative is based on a biblical episode from 2 Maccabees in which Heliodorus is ordered by the king of Syria, to take all the treasure from the Temple in Jerusalem.

The high priest Onias, who is pictured in the center, prays to God, who responded by sending the horseman and youths to expel Heliodorus.

Pope Julius II, Raphael’s patron, is shown on the left as a witness to the scene. He is on his high litter, which is carried by the men with poles on their shoulders. The coins, which were in the bronze jar, are spilled on the floor.

The money had been reserved for widows and orphans. On the right, the horseman and youth are battling Heliodorus and his men, one of which has a large box object on his shoulders.

The menorah which is facing the praying priest in the center identifies the Jewish temple.

The orphans are grouped below the Pope to witness this event. The primary message of the fresco is:

“don’t steal from the church.”

The architecture elements in the fresco echo the style of “The School of Athens,” although the Domes in this painting are more luxurious with gilded and decoration befitting a Temple.

The fresco was painted between 1511 and 1513 as part of Raphael’s commission to decorate the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

The work contains a self-portrait by Raphael, near the far left. Many of the other figures included portraits of famous and influential contemporaries from the papal court.

According to Giorgio Vasari, one reason Raphael was so well-liked was that he portrayed so many people at the papal court who were immortalized to their great satisfaction in his frescoes.

2 Maccabees

2 Maccabees is a deuterocanonical book focused on the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and concludes with the defeat of the Seleucid general Nicanor in 161 BC by Judas Maccabeus.

2 Maccabees was written in Koine Greek, in Alexandria, Egypt, about 124 BC. Jews and Protestants reject most of the doctrinal elements in the work, while Catholics and Eastern Orthodox consider the work to be canonical and part of the Bible.

The Church of England defines it as useful but not the basis of doctrine and not necessary for salvation.


Raphael (1483–1520) was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he is one of the great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, despite his death at 37, he created a large body of work.

Many of Raphael’s works are in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were central, and the largest, work of his career. The best-known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican.

His career started in Umbria, and then he spent four years in Florence, absorbing the artistic Renaissance of Florence. During his last twelve years in Rome, he mainly worked for two Popes and their associates.

After his death, the influence of his rival Michelangelo was more widespread. Then in the 19th century, Raphael’s harmonious works were reevaluated, and he regained his popularity for his many masterpieces.

The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple

  • Title:                 The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple
  • Artist:               Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio)
  • Date:                1512
  • Dimensions:     Width: 750 cm (24.6 ft) (at base)
  • Media:             Paint, Plaster
  • Type:                Fresco
  • Location:          Stanza di Eliodoro, Vatican City
  • Period:             High Renaissance (c.1490-1530)
  • Museum:         Vatican Museums


Vatican Museums: Raphael Rooms: Room of Heliodorus

A Tour of the Vatican Museums

Vatican – Raphael’s Rooms- Room of Heliodorus (1512-1514)

The Expulsion of Heliodorus


 “Leonardo da Vinci promises us heaven. Raphael gives it to us.”
– Picasso


Photo Credit: 1) Raphael / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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