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In the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci painted Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples. But is the painting accurate?

The painting accurately depicts all 12 disciples present at the table while they partook in the Passover meal. However, it is not likely that the painting accurately depicts the seating arrangement of Jesus and His disciples or their position while eating. In a first-century meal, people would eat in a three-sided arrangement — called a triclinium — and usually while reclining on couches.

A Triclinium defines a triclinium as a couch extending along three sides of a table for reclining at meals. ·

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as a couch extending around three sides of a table used by the ancient Romans for reclining at meals. Although this definition lists its use as being by ancient Romans, it is believed to have been a practice throughout the ancient Roman world, which would have included the Middle East.

There is much uncertainty about what a triclinium actually looked like—especially the one used at Jesus’ last supper. Various ideas have been illustrated about the size of the couches and the table, or tables, and some question whether tables were used.

 The Seating Arrangement at a Triclinium

This carving is more accurate with a three-sided table. But still, the seating arrangement isn’t correct, and they aren’t reclining.  The carving shows Jesus at the center of His 12 disciples, which was not likely.

From historical information about the first century Roman Empire, which included the Middle East, we know that each side of the table had a “title” and there were specific seat designations.  it’s likely the seating arrangement would have looked like this:

On the Lectus Imus side sat the host and his family.  Jesus was the supper host, so He would have sat in the host’s designated seat. To His right would have been seated the disciple John, the youngest of the disciples.  Why?  Because we know from John 13:25 that during the dinner, John leaned upon Jesus’ chest, and Jesus certainly considered John as family when he committed the care of His mother to him (John 19:26-7)

Interestingly, to Jesus’ left, in another “family” seat was Judas. He sat in the seat of the locus consularis (the chief consular), a seat of honor, making him the first to receive the sop (John 13:26). That reveals just how much Jesus loved Judas. Even knowing Judas would betray Him, Jesus treated him with love, as He did the other disciples. This was further illustrated when Jesus served Judas by washing his feet.  

The Lectus Medius and the Lectus Summus were appointed for the guests. The ten other disciples would have sat in these seats, and it’s believed that Peter occupied the seat of the most honored guest across from Jesus.

Rethinking Our Thinking

We’ve all seen many renderings of the Last Supper.  Most reflect da Vinci’s depiction of a long table with Jesus at the center.  It’s hard to consider it differently, but historical records suggest it was.  This painting is much more accurate regarding the three-sided seating, the seating positions, and some reclining. However, there are no couches, and John looks no younger than the other disciples — but we know he was.


While it’s interesting to note what the furniture and seating arrangement of the Last Supper might have been, it’s not important how or where they sat. What is important is what Jesus did and said in the upper room where they ate.

On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, He fellowshipped with His disciples. Jesus washed their feet — the feet of all twelve. (Read What is Maundy Thursday?).  And after the departure of Judas, Jesus spoke clearly to the faithful 11.  He gave them a new commandment and exlained the New Covenant that was soon to come.

Jesus also broke bread and offered wine to them as symbols of His broken body and shed blood — that which would pay for the sins of the world in less than 24 hours.  Jesus also prayed to His Father and “bequeathed” special gifts to all who would come to Him in faith — as the risen Saviour and glorified Son of God.  (Read:  Have You Read Jesus’ Last Will and Testament in John 17?)

When you think about the Last Supper, think about how the disciples heard everything Jesus said but did not understand — that is,  until they saw the risen and glorified Jesus.  

 Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.  John 20:29



Key Takeaways

  1. Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper accurately depicts all 12 disciples present. However, it does not accurately depict the seating arrangement.
  2. In the first century, people reclined while eating on couches extending along three sides of a table — called a triclinium
  3. There is much uncertainty about what a triclinium looked like, especially the one at which the Last Supper took place.
  4. Most artwork of the Last Supper depicts the furniture and/or seating arrangement incorrectly.
  5. Jesus is usually in the center of the table, even when a triclinium is depicted.
  6. The seating arrangement at the Last Supper was Jesus sitting in the host’s seat, John to His right, and Judas to His left.
  7. Judas was seated in the seat of the locus consularis, a seat of honor, making him the first to receive the sop.
  8. Peter occupied the seat of the most honored guest across from Jesus.
  9. Despite knowing of his coming betrayal, Jesus treated Judas as He did the other disciples, serving him also by washing his feet.
  10. The table and the seating arrangement are not what is important to us about the Last Supper.  What Jesus said and did is what is important and that is accurately recorded in Holy Scripture.


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A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ   Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.

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There is much to be learned from those who have gone before us in the faith.  Check out our Cloud of Witnesses category that features the words of departed saints who are now with the Lord in glory.  Their words equip and encourage us even to this day.  Take a few minutes to hear...

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