The Tiny Detail You May Have Missed In Da Vinci’s Last Supper

While reading an article about the famous painting, I started thinking.

In a BBC Radio broadcast that aired on June 14, food writer Stefan Gates traveled to Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery, where the image is located, to take a look at the meal that the Leonardo painted for Jesus and his disciples. 

Pinin Brambilla, who led the team of experts that cleaned and repainted “The Last Supper” over a period of 20 years, believes the dishes on the table are fish. (Fish was also an important symbol of Jesus in early Christian iconography.)

The late John Varriano, a former professor of art at Mount Holyoke College, had a slightly different theory — one that reveals more about the society that Leonardo lived in than it does about the meal actually served in the Bible. After examining the plates of food laid out on the table, Varriano claimed the meal included grilled eels garnished with a citrus fruit, most likely sliced lemons or oranges. 

“I thought, how interesting and how contemporary this is,” Varriano said in the broadcast. “Because there’s absolutely no justification in the Bible for having eel at the Last Supper. Eel is not kosher after all, and this is supposed to be a Passover.”

I am not sure and personally really don’t care! Except that it got me thinking and wondering how much of our “Church” tradition might be colored by the customs of the modern day thinker. We tend to attribute modern day customs to many Biblical stories. We read Scripture with a 21 Century “Western” mentality.

We need to be careful to not impose our cultural values into the reading of the Scriptures. Ideas such as “God’s Blessing” means different things to a rich man than it does to a family living on the streets in total poverty. Each imposes their experiential circumstances to the interpretation of the Scripture. Each will tell you that the Blessing from God is a totally different thing.



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