Our Top 5 Last Supper tables in Florence
It was a busy summer in Florence for Forte Academy with two fully booked courses: Classics Abroad and Women Latinists. But outside of teaching hours, some of us tutors had the time and joy to explore Florentine libraries, restaurants, galleries and immerse ourselves, like students, in the dolce vita of the city.
Along the way, there was no shortage of impressive #lastsupper tables and in this article, we share an insight into our Top 5.
What was the Last Supper?
The “Last Supper”, especially in the context of Christian art, refers to the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The best-known Last Supper (“L’Ultima Cena” or “Cenone” in Italian) is probably that depicted by Leonardo da Vinci (below), and there is a long tradition of speculation over whether the figure on the left of Jesus is John the Baptist or in fact, Mary Magdalene. The Eastern Orthodox church instead uses the term “Mystical Supper” and the Russian Orthodox also use the term: “Secret Supper”.
According to scripture, there were thirteen people at the supper: Jesus and his twelve disciplines. Likely for artistic reasons (i.e. to avoid half of the disciplines facing away from the “viewer”) they are often depicted on the same side of a very long, wooden table, which has created some waves in the meme community:
1. Classics Abroad 2023, Leaving Lunch
#1 goes to our very own last supper held for Classics Abroad (3 – 8 July 2023) at Caffetteria delle Oblate. There were 12 students and 2 lead tutors, Florence Forte and Mike Tafel, and we had everything we needed at the end of an intense but rewarding week: air-conditioning and a beautiful view of the Duomo.
The bar is an excellent option in Florence for aperitivo or quiet coffee and study moments, since it’s on the top floor of a fourteenth-century convent turned public library.
2. The Feast of San Giovanni, Società Canottieri
On Saturday 24 June, Florence and Mike also had the good fortune to be invited to the famous Feast of San Giovanni held at the Società Canottieri — a boat club on the river Arno.
Highlights included the chance to watch a boat race up-close, a four-course meal showcasing Tuscan specialities and a beautiful view of the evening fireworks coming down from Piazzale Michelangelo. Most impressive were the lengths of two incredibly long tables: set up to hold 250 people on each!
3. Biblioteca Marucelliana
Another hidden gem in Florence is the Marucelliana Library (Via Camillo Cavour, 43). The library opened in 1752 and it was gifted to the public by the Abbot Francesco Marucelli, who did so with the intention that it be used by less affluent citizens in the city.
Initially it contained only the contents of his library and those of his acquaintances, but today it holds over a million volumes including 490 incunabula and 2,927 manuscripts. In the reading room, you can easily pass the time studying on these #lastsupper style wooden tables pictured above.
4. Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento
We love the elegance of this long study table and its luxurious velvet-coated seats, within the library of the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento in Palazzo Strozzi. This exemplary Renaissance palace was commissioned to be built by Filippo Strozzi, who entrusted Simone del Pollaiolo with its construction, and accordingly the Institute, which was founded in 1930, is enriched with a number of Renaissance period objects: paintings, furniture and ceramics. Today, it holds international seminars and conferences in its library to fulfil its mission of the dissemination and promotion of studies of the culture of Humanism and the Renaissance.
5. Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli
Last but not least, we nominate the Last Supper painted by the Dominican nun and artist Plautilla Nelli as one of our Top 5 #lastsuppers seen this summer. Dated to around 1568, the painting is now on display in the refectory of the basilica of Santa Maria Novella – a fitting place for it, since refectories were all about food and communal dining for the monastic community in question. Nelli’s painting is roughly 23 by six-and-a-half foot in oil on canvas and it was originally created for her convent, Santa Caterina da Siena, which would have stood just one mile away from its current location. Its medium has helped to preserve it: had she painted it in fresco, it would likely have been destroyed in situ when Napoleon conquered Italy and suppressed the religious orders, after which her convent which was closed and later destroyed.