Florentine Last Suppers

When someone mentions the Last Supper, you probably think of the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. But da Vinci wasn’t the only one to paint this Biblical scene – nor was he the first. In Florence you can find quite a selection of Last Suppers if you know where to look.

Detail of San Marco painting – Image by CuriousRambler.com

Dining With the Disciples

The tradition of painting Biblical scenes is a long one and Last Suppers were always a part of that. But in the 1300s this supper scene became a popular one in convents and monasteries in Florence. It would be painted on the end wall of the long refectories where the monks or nuns gathered to eat. So as they thoughtfully munched their meal, they could look up and see Jesus and his disciples eating right alongside them.

In Italian a Last Supper painting is known as a cenacolo (pronounced something like: chain a colo) and the plural is cenacoli (like: chain a colee). It’s also sometimes referred to as the ultima cena.

Whatever you call them, these wonderful works of art are worth a look. Since they were painted in convents and monasteries, some of them were unknown to the public for hundreds of years. Other than the two in large churches (Santa Croce and San Marco), they are off the beaten tourist track. That means that you’ll probably be able to experience these paintings without the crowds – sometime just on your own. It’s a lovely little treasure hunt.

Below, I’ve put together some of the Last Suppers in Florence in chronological order to show where Leonardo da Vinci’s fits in. If you go to see them, please be aware that I have listed the hours as they were posted when I was there, but they are subject to change, so be sure to check online or at the tourist office.

Some Things to Notice

Perspective: In the early 1400s, a mathematical formula was developed for showing perspective in paintings. It made scenes look more realistic because depth could be shown in an accurate way. For the Cenacoli paintings this meant that the supper scene could be painted on a flat wall, yet appear to be set in an alcove at the end of the dining hall.

Judas: Besides Jesus, Judas Iscariot is usually the easiest disciple to recognize. Since he’s the one who betrayed Jesus, he’s sometimes shown separated from the others or sometimes shown with a black halo.


c 1335 – Santa Croce Basilica – By Taddeo Gaddi (1300-1366)

Santa Croce Basilica – By Taddeo Gaddi – Image by CuriousRambler.com

On this amazing painted wall in Santa Croce you can see one of oldest Last Suppers in Florence. It is generally considered as the first one painted at the end of a monastery dining hall.

In this one the Last Supper runs along the bottom and is painted in a rather flat style. However, you can see a little attempt at perspective in the alcoves behind Jesus and the disciples. This Last Supper has five other scenes above it, with the main one being the elaborate Crucifixion/Tree of Life.

You can see some damage at the bottom of this fresco. The Santa Croce area is the lowest in Florence and has been flooded several times. In the back of the room you can see a sort of flagpole with markers showing the water levels of different floods with the highest being in 1966.

To see this last supper, you need to buy a ticket to visit the Santa Croce church. Once inside, you’ll find the tombs of the greats: Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Dante… And there’s a lot of other amazing art as well.

  • Where: Santa Croce Museum, Piazza Santa Croce
  • Cost: An entry fee includes the church and museum
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 9.30 am-5.30 pm / Sun and holidays 2.00 pm-5.30 pm

c 1447 – Sant’Apollonia – by Andrea di Bartolo known as Andrea del Castagno (1419-1457)

Sant’Apollonia – by Andrea di Bartolo known as Andrea del Castagno – Image by CuriousRambler.com

The refectory of Sant’Apollonia holds what is considered the first Renaissance Last Supper in Florence. You can see the very effective use of perspective to make it look like the scene is taking place in a little elevated alcove set just above where the nuns used to eat. This scene was painted just for the nuns of the Benedictine convent to enjoy while they ate, and it wasn’t known to the public until around 1866.

  • Where: At Sant’Apollonia, Via Ventisette Aprile, 1 (in the center near San Marco)
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Open daily 8:15-1:50 / Closed 2nd, 4th Mondays and 1st, 3rd, 5th Sundays

1480 – Ognissanti Church & 1486 – San Marco Museum – by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) 

Ognissanti Church & San Marco Museum – by Domenico Ghirlandaio – Image by CuriousRambler.com

This Last Supper is my personal favorite. I like the delicacy of the image and I like the animals: the birds flying outside the windows, the peacock, and the little cat sitting on the floor looking at out at the viewer.

The photo here is from the one a San Marco, but Ghirlandaio actually painted two versions of this Last Supper which are basically the same. I think the one in Ognissanti is just missing the cute little cat.

To visit San Marco museum, there is an entrance fee but it’s a very interesting museum. You can see the monks’ cells painted by Fra Angelico and a room dedicated to Savonarola as well as this amazing Last Supper.

It’s highly likely that Da Vinci was familiar with this Last Supper as he and Ghirlandaio were contemporaries and apprenticed in the same workshop in their younger days.

  • Where: San Marco Museum, Piazza San Marco, 3
  • Cost: Entrance fee for the museum
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 8.15 am-1.50 pm / Sat, Sun, and holidays 8.15 am-4.50 pm / Closed 1st, 3rd, 5th Sundays and 2nd, 4th Mondays of each month. Closed 25 Dec and 1 Jan.
  • Where: Ognissanti Church, Borgo Ognissanti, 42
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Mon and Sat 9.00 am-1.00 pm

1493-1496 Fuligno Museum – By Pietro Perugino (1446-1523) 

Fuligno Museum – By Pietro Perugino – Image in public domain

This is another Last Supper painted for nuns in a convent. It was “discovered” in the 1800s.

This museum is close to the San Lorenzo market and is free to visit but the hours are pretty restricted.

  • Where: Fuligno Museum, Via Faenza, 40, 50123 Firenze
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Tue 8.30 am-1.30 pm / July only: Tue 2.30 pm-6.30 pm

1495-1498 – Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

Last Supper – by Leonardo da Vinci – Image in public domain

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Last Supper is not in Florence, but it would slot in the timeline right here.

Around 1469 da Vinci was apprenticed to a painting and sculpting workshop in Florence where he mingled with all the leading painters of the day. It’s highly likely that he saw at least some of the Last Suppers that we’ve mentioned here. He probably took inspiration from them and then added his own unique style.

For example, in all the earlier paintings, Judas is set apart from the other disciples by being placed on the opposite side of the table. But da Vinci puts him right in the mix. He also omits the halos and adds a lot more movement than we’ve seen in the previous Last Suppers.

  • Where: Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
  • Cost: Entry fee and reservations required

1546-1547 – Santa Croce – by Vasari (1511-1574)

Santa Croce – by Vasari – Image by CuriousRambler.com

This Last Supper is also in Santa Croce, in the same room as the first one we looked at.

Vasari’s painting was originally in a monastery on via Ghibelina and was nearly destroyed by flooding in 1966. It took almost 50 years to restore, and when it was finally finished, it was hung in Santa Croce and equipped with a special pully system so it can be raised in case a flood threatens again.

We can see da Vinci’s influence here with the movement of the figures, but Vasari seems to have moved Judas back across the table. It was painted around 50 years after da Vinci’s.


  • Where: Santa Croce Museum, Piazza Santa Croce
  • Cost: An entry fee includes the church and museum
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 9.30 am-5.30 pm / Sun and holidays 2.00 pm-5.30 pm

1582 – Santa Maria del Carmine – by Alessandro Allori

Santa Maria del Carmine – by Alessandro Allori – Image by CuriousRambler.com

Santa Maria del Carmine is best known for the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, but there is also a Last Supper there. This one has two cats sitting at the apostles’ feet.

There is a cost to enter the church but the Last Supper is free. Just continue past the door of the gift shop and you will see the door to the refectory where the Last Supper is.

  • Where: Santa Maria del Carmine, Piazza del Carmine
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9.00 am-12.00 noon / Wed, Sat 10.00 am-12.00 noon

A Different Style

1385-1405 – Officina di Santa Maria Novella (pharmacy) – Chapel – by Mariotto di Nardo (c 1365-1424)

Officina di Santa Maria Novella (pharmacy) – by Mariotto di Nardo – Image by CuriousRambler.com

This Last Supper is not in the same style and was not in a refectory. But I wanted to mention it, because it’s still worth seeing and it’s free.

It’s in the old pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella in a room that was a chapel. This room has Biblical scenes all the way around the room so it’s worth a peek.

  • Where: Officina di Santa Maria Novella – Chapel, Via della Scala, 16
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours : Daily 9.00 am-8.00 pm

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of Last Suppers around Florence. In this city of art, the churches and religious institutions are like museums and often contain masterpieces. So if you see an open church, pop in for a look – you never know what you might find.

You might be interested in reading about London’s Last Supper too.

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Margo Lestz

Margo has authored four books about France. She has a BA in Liberal Studies with International Emphasis and enjoys travel, languages, history, writing, and experiencing other cultures.

5 comments

  1. Wonderful, Margo. It is a very long time since I visited Florence – 45 years. It is now going to be on my next trip. I will have to visit the ‘Last Supper’ paintings with your guide.
    Best wishes, Paula

    1. Florence is, perhaps, my favourite city. It’s small and walkable and just packed with museums. I went there almost 20 years ago for an art history course and just keep going back. Usually I take a language course when I’m there, but this time I didn’t, so I had more time to wander around in museums. It was wonderful!
      I know you’ll have a great time there too, and the Last Suppers are fun to explore.
      All the best, Margo

  2. Margo, Your curiosity to explore history never cease to amaze me!
    Great article and thank you for taking me with you to see these incredible paintings.

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