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The Last Supper – Milan break

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By | Blog, Milan | Posted 22 Sep 2015

The Last Supper – Milan break

When you book your Milan break you think of the designer shops, the Duomo or La Scala Opera house, but are you aware that Milan also houses one of the most important religious paintings in the world – The Last Supper?

The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century, and is housed in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The painting was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan as part of a renovation project, and as a centrepiece to the mausoleum. The painting is so huge it dominates one entire wall of the dining hall. It represents The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. The painting depicts the disciples’ individual reactions to being told by Jesus that one of them would betray him.

Interestingly, Leonardo da Vinci did not work on this continuously, taking three years to complete. In that time he was struggling to find a muse for the treacherous face of Judas, and believing himself to be hassled by the Prior for taking his time completing the painting, he threatened the head of the monastery saying if he was not left to complete in his own time, he would use the offending prior’s face for that of Jesus!

The painting has had several almost fatal calamities where it was lucky to survive. The first was the humidity on the thin exterior wall. This meant the detail of the paints began to deteriorate and had to be re-painted. The second and worse by far, was during World War II when the refectory was bombed by the Allies, and if it wasn’t for protective sandbagging, the painting would have been destroyed completely. The vibration alone could have instilled further damage, thankfully, the painting endured.

This iconic painting has also led to much speculation. The figure to Jesus’ right has had many academics wondering if instead of John the Apostle, the figure is indeed Mary Magdalene. The figure appears quite feminine and with a gentle face. Many books have been written on this, including “The Templar Revelation” by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, and Dan Brown in his own book “The Da Vinci Code.”

Other points of interest include an Italian musician called Giovanni Maria Pala, who believes that the positions of hands and loaves of bread, if read from right to left form a majestic composition! For anyone who can read music, this surely has to be something to look at when you do your Milan break!

Lastly, Sabrina Sforza Galitzia, a Vatican researcher, believed the painting was a mathematical and astrological puzzle. She prophesied that the painting represented the world ending in a universal flood, which would take place on the 21 March 4006 – thankfully we will not be around to know if this is true!

Make sure when you plan your Milan break that you pre-book a visit to The Last Supper several months before, or face possible disappointment.

Second photo copyrighted to Ranzani, Alinari.


Santa Maria della Grazie Church which houses The Last Supper painting, in Milan

The Last Supper painting in Milan. Photo copyrighted to Ranzani, Alinari



About Hannah Netting

Hannah has had the travel bug from an early age where she was fortunate enough to travel widely, including a four month trip around the world. For her experiencing new cultures, sights and wonders was very important.

Lately her focus has been heavily on Italy enhanced by many wonderful trips including Verona, Venice, Top to Toe, Florence, amongst many others. In Venice she got lost in true Venetian style and got to experience the amazing acoustics of the Verona Arena. Currently Florence is her favourite, but this can always change! With plenty on offer in Italy, it will keep her entertained for many more trips to come!

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