The Last Supper Room is a second-story room in Jerusalem that commemorates the "upper room" in which Jesus shared the Last Supper with the disciples. It is located directly above the Tomb of David and near the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.
In the Bible
The site of the Last Supper is not known and the Gospel accounts provide few clues. It cannot be the present room, which was built in the 12th century. However, it is possible it stands over or near the original site of the Last Supper and/or Pentecost.
Beneath the floor of the building are Byzantine and Roman pavements and the foundations go back to at least the 2nd century AD. It is possible that the "little church of God" that existed on Mount Zion in 130 AD (mentioned by Epiphanius of Salamis) was on this site.
Danger and persecutions would have excluded Christian invention of a new holy place in the 2nd century, so if an active church existed in 130 it must have already been important for some time — perhaps because the upper room was nearby. In those times this was an affluent area of the city and a wealthy Christian may have opened his home for use as a church.
History of Last Supper Room
The Mount Zion church was reconstructed in the 4th century after persecutions ended, at which point it was known as "the Upper Church of the Apostles." This designation referred, however, not to the Last Supper but to the apostles' receiving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which also occurred in an "upper room" (Acts 1:13, 2:1). A tradition located the upper room of Pentecost on Mount Zion by 348, when it was mentioned by Cyril of Jerusalem.
In the 5th century the church was referred to as "Zion, Mother of all the Churches," and it was around this time that it was identified with the site of the Last Supper. This seems to have been based on a natural conclusion that since both Pentecost and the Last Supper occured in an upper room, the two events happened in the same room.
The Byzantine church was destroyed by fire in 614 during the Persian attack and again in 965. It was in ruins when the Crusaders arrived, who chose it as one of the stations on the pentitential procession that preceded the final assult on the city in July 1099. The Last Supper Room that pilgrims visit today was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century as part of the Church of St. Mary of Zion.
The Crusader church became one of the glories of Jerusalem, but it fell into ruins once again after the Crusader defeat. From the mid-13th century, the remains were pillaged for building materials. The site was then revived and restored by Franciscans in the 14th century and used as a Franciscan monastery until 1552.
The room was transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1524, who were less concerned with the site's Christian traditions than with the Tomb of King David (the "Prophet David" in Muslim tradition) on the level below.
What to See at Last Supper Room
The Upper Room is approached via a pointed-arch entrance from the main lane on Mount Zion, then by ascending stairs immediately to the left in the courtyard. The courtyard is part of what was once a pilgrim hospice, then an Ottoman house, and now a Jewish yeshiva.
The Last Supper Room is an attractive, mostly empty rectangular room with pillars and a groin-vaulted ceiling. The capitals on the pillars are mainly 12th-century and Gothic in style. There are traces of 14th-century paint on the wall just inside to the right of the door. The east end originally had an altar and choir, but these were destroyed when the dome was built over the Tomb of David in the lower level.
The chamber retains the trappings of a mosque, including restored stained-glass Ottoman windows with Arabic inscriptions and the ornate mihrab (an alcove indicating the direction of Mecca). There are also two Arabic plaques in the wall and a Levantine dome.
Stairs in the southwest corner of the room (no entry) lead down into the Tomb of David. A dome above the stairs is supported by marble columns with a notable capital depicting pelicans pecking their parent's breast, a symbol of charity and sacrifice in Christian art. Stairs by the minaret lead up to the roof, from which there are fine views to the Mount of Olives and beyond.
Quick Facts on Last Supper Room
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- Kay Prag, Blue Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Black and Norton, 2002), 215-16.
- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, Oxford Archaeological Guides: The Holy Land (Oxford, 1998), 105-06.
- Daniel Jacobs, Mini Rough Guide to Jerusalem (Rough Guides, 1999), 137.
- King David's Traditional Tomb - Century One (on the ancient "Judeo-Christian synagogue" beneath the building)
- The Room of the Last Supper - Franciscan Cyberspot
- Christian Mount Sion - Franciscan Cyberspot
- Photos of Last Supper Room - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Last Supper Room, Jerusalem
Below is a location map and aerial view of Last Supper Room. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.