Three days before his execution, the elderly Apostle Peter tells his jailer about his time with Jesus. The Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles before his death, according to Christian tradition. Described in the synoptic gospels as a Passover Seder in which Jesus instituted the Eucharist, it plays a major role in Christian theology and has been the subject of numerous works of art, most famously by Leonardo da Vinci. Also known as the Lord’s Supper, the event is first described by Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, in which he says that he received Jesus’ words at the supper through a personal revelation. In the gospels’ description of the Last Supper, Jesus is depicted as predicting Judas Iscariot’s betrayal, Peter’s three-fold denial, and Jesus’ abandonment by the rest of his disciples. While the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are in general agreement about the events of the Last Supper, the Gospel of John presents it quite differently, omitting the institution of the Eucharist, adding the scene of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and describing it as something other than a Passover Seder.
The Last Supper is particularly important in Christian tradition as the moment when Jesus instituted the tradition of Holy Communion. After the Protestant Reformation, various interpretations of the meaning of this tradition have emerged. Since the nineteenth century, critical scholarship has questioned the historicity of the Last Supper, suggesting that it is largely the product of the developing sacramental tradition of the early Christian church.