The Last Supper Room
Of all the famous Christian sites connected with a Leonardo da Vinci paintings, the Last Supper Room is probably one of the most popular and well known.
It was here that Jesus’s disciples were said to have come, after being instructed by Jesus to ask the owner of the house where the “upper room” was, so that they could prepare a Passover feast. The Upper Room is also known in Latin as Cenacle.
What kind of things can you expect to see in The Last Supper room (which is right outside of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, and close by to the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey, formerly called the Abbey of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary)?
Well, for starters, it’s part of a multicultural experience, upstairs from the Jewish site of the Tomb of King David, so you could have two very different religious experiences one after the other.
The Room itself is mostly empty, with beautiful pillars and a vaulted ceiling, corresponding to 12th century Gothic style. There is a dome located above the stairs which is held by marble columns that contain images of pelicans pecking at their parents, which is within Christian artwork a symbol of sacrifice and charity.
It is clear through the architecture that this current room was built by the Crusaders, though it is believed that it was constructed on top of much older structures, dating back to the first church-synagogues of the Jerusalem Christian Community, around 70 CE. The property was traded into many different hands since then, through force, by Persians, then Muslims, then Crusaders (producing a 1333 CE basilica, guarded by Franciscan monks), then Turks in 1552 when it became a mosque.
As it was formerly a mosque, the chamber still includes stained-glass Ottoman windows that have Arabic inscriptions and what is called a “mihrab”, that indicates the direction of Mecca.
Christians have not had access to the Last Supper Room for thousands of years prior to 1948, when with the Independence, Israeli officials allowed Pope John Paul II to reclaim it as a Catholic site in exchange for a church-turned-synagogue in Toledo, Spain. Sounds like a bargain!
If you continue up the stairs of the minaret, you will be able to wholly enjoy beautiful views of the Mount of Olives spread out before you.
Now both you and Leonardo da Vinci can clearly envision the historic location of where the Last Supper is believed to have taken place, as you visit this significant site on your HolyIsrael tour.