The Last Supper is a famous work of art by Leonardo da Vinci, made between 1494 and 1498. The painting was created inside the refectory of the Milan Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, which is still located today. It is a painting representing one of the most important scenes of the Christian religion: Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper.
In this article, we want to take you to the discovery of the painting and its real meaning. And could you tell me something more about one of the most cryptic moments in the history of our religion? Would you like to know who the apostles were presented at the Last Supper and the hidden meaning behind every trait?
The story of the Last Supper
When we talk about the painting of the Last Supper, we refer to the one made with tempera. And oil on the wall by Leonardo da Vinci. Numerous artists have addressed this theme several times, especially in Florence. During the fifteenth century. However, no artist has ever changed iconography. They all represent the exact figures intent on carrying out more or less the same actions.
Leonardo da Vinci’s work has become famous because it focuses on a specific moment of the Supper. The instant following the words of Jesus, ” One of you will betray me. ” This is the most dramatic moment of the Supper; the ap; begins to question the meaning of these words. Some confront each other, others remain incredulous, and everyone wonders who this person could be. The painting focuses on the reactions that Jesus’ words provoke in all participants at the Supper. And it is precisely this that makes the image different from those represented by other artists.
Read also: Who is the bride of Christ in the Bible?
How is Jesus presented at The Last Supper?
The Supper takes place in a large room with a particular perspective rigor, typical in Leonardo’s paintings. The vanishing point coincides with the face of Christ, and the centrality of his figure is also recalled by the coffered ceiling and the tapestries hanging on the walls.
In the scene of the Last Supper, Jesus appears with his hands next to the bread and wine of the Eucharist. There is no halo on his head to indicate his divine nature, but we can see the luminous sky covering the hills from the three openings at the back of the room. As anticipated, Jesus has just announced the betrayal of an apostle. His words spread throughout the room, generating all the apostles’ amazement at the Last Supper, disapproval, and anguish.
Who are the apostles present at the Last Supper?
The apostles at the Last Supper begin to group and confront each other, isolating the figure of Jesus in the center of the table. Let’s see them one by one; starting from the left, we find:
- St. Bartholomew, who reaches out to Jesus, placing his hands on the table and standing up in dismay;
- St. James the Less, also standing and with his face marked by amazement;
- Saint Andrew, together with the first two apostles, stood up in disbelief;
- Judas Iscariot, with a nervous jerk, turns to look at Jesus and leans his right elbow on the table. He holds a bag of coins while he takes a piece of empty with his left. This is the gesture communicated by Jesus to reveal the traitor.
- St. Peter wields a knife with his right hand (which suggests the wounding of the soldier during the capture of Jesus) and approaches the apostle at his side;
- St. John the Evangelist is bending towards St. Peter and listens to the request that is whispered in his ear;
- St. James the Greater, with a horrified face and arms outstretched, seems to contain the reaction of the two apostles at his side;
- Saint Philip, with an expression of astonishment, holds himself behind the shoulders of Saint Jacob the Great;
- St. Thomas raises his finger with interrogative tones to indicate the finger that the apostle will want to insert into the wounds of Jesus after his resurrection to ascertain the real presence of Christ before his eyes;
- Saint Matthew, together with Saint Judas Thaddeus and Saint Simon (the eleventh and twelfth apostles), make up the last group of apostles at the Last Supper. They argue among themselves and try to calm their spirits after the words spoken by Jesus.
The meaning of the Cenacle
The Last Supper is a masterpiece of art and a testimony of faith, rich in sacred elements. And references give it an even deeper charm—starting with the fact that it was built in a refectory. In the time of Jesus, the consecrated community gathered to eat in this very place. Leonardo used three iconographic sources to create the composition of the figure of Jesus Christ.
The image of the Legislator is ubiquitous in early Christian and medieval art: in which Jesus spreads his arms to transmit the book of his Gospel to believers. In fact, among the topics discussed at the dinner, there were, in particular, those of the “kingdom” and the “new law” of Love.
The Byzantine image of the Pantokrator, the king judge and eternal priest dressed in heaven and earth, with open arms to welcome or reject the mystery of passion.
Finally, the image of the Vir dolorum with his head tilted as a sign of sadness or death and his arms extended. This posture recalls the representations of Jesus being taken down from the cross and showing evident sores on his body.
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The New Testament, the second part of the Bible, comprises 27 books about the Christian religion. The group of Apostles appears compact in all: they were twelve and were chosen by Jesus. Who called them by one? Luke the Evangelist relates: When it was day, he called his disciples to himself and chose twelve. He also gave the name of the apostles: Simon, whom he also called Peter, and his brother Andrew. James and John; Philip and Bartolomeo; Matthew and Thomas. James, son of Alphaeus, and Simon, called Zealot; Judas, son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Indeed some of you have been to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in the beautiful Dominican church and convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan.
Indeed, we have seen the faces and dispositions of the Apostles seated at the table with Jesus. However, it is not so easy to remember them in their nature and even briefly to mention their personality and history.