In preparation for Holy Week, and for Passover, I created this video about the possible setting of the Last Supper at a Roman styled triclinium. Below is the text for the video:
Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper has riveted the minds of the world for centuries. Yet this depiction of the Last Supper, like many others, is quite inaccurate when it comes to the actual setting of the Last Supper. Because of these depictions, we often picture Christ seated at the center of a long table, with his disciples on each side of him. However, according to ancient Roman and Jewish culture, and several verses found in the gospels, we find a much different setting. With this more accurate setting, we are able to learn of a powerful message of Jesus’ true love.
It was Thursday, just before the setting of the sun. Jesus and the apostles had gathered in a large upper room on Mount Zion in the upper city of Jerusalem. The home would have been a wealthy home, as it had an upper chamber, and all of the preparations for the Passover feast would have already been made. The most prominent feature of the room would have been a low table in the shape of a “U” called a triclinium. A triclinium was a Roman styled table, of various sizes and styles, that had been adopted by the Jews of the first century. The table had large couches, or cushions, placed on each of the three sides, allowing the middle to be open for entertainment and servers.
|From Food at the Time of the Bible by Miriam Vamosh|
The host of the feast would not sit in the middle, as is often depicted in artwork of the Last Supper, but instead second to the left, with the guest of honor on his left, and a trusted friend to his right. The seating then continued around the triclinium, the most important guests seated on the left, then going around the table, with the least important sitting on the far right. The servant, if seated at the table, would occupy the last position, closest to the door, so they could go and obtain more food as the evening progressed.
|The Betrayal by Marilyn Todd-Daniels|
|Possible seating arrangement for the Last Supper|
This seating arrangement would also mean that Jesus placed Judas, who would betray him, in the seat of honor. It seems that to the very end Jesus loved Judas, and desired to teach him of his love by placing him in this most important seat. It was as if Jesus was trying to give Judas one less reason to betray him. Jesus, at some point, gives Judas a “sop,” a piece of bread dipped in broth, yet another sign of honor. However, Judas had already made up his mind. “And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27).