The icon of the Mystical Supper

Icon by Dorothea Giannoukou – Antoniou – used with permission.

The iconographic depiction of the Mystical Supper shows our Lord Jesus Christ with the twelve disciples sitting at the table in the upper room of a house, observing the Jewish Passover and having their last meal together before the Lord’s Passion. It is a majestic icon, since it refers to the institution of the great mystery of the Holy Eucharist. 

The background of this icon usually depicts a symmetrical building with a central dome right behind our Lord, to help accentuate and differentiate Him from the disciples. A red canopy is hanging on top of the building, to symbolize that the event took place indoors.

Christ is the central figure in the icon, and He is sitting prominently at the center of the table. His size is also usually larger than that of the disciples, to accentuate His importance. He is the only one usually shown with a halo, as the Holy Spirit hadn’t descended on the disciples yet. As always, He is wearing blue on the outside to symbolize His human nature, and red on the inside, to symbolize His Divinity.

The table is not depicted straight all around; it is usually curved at the top and straight at the bottom.

On the table, we can see food, drink, and eating utensils, in different variations depending on the icon. Nevertheless, there is always a piece of bread in front of each disciple.

Philip and Thomas, the youngest two of the disciples (we can tell they are young because they have no beards), are always placed on the two lower outside edges of the table, furthest from our Lord.

Peter is the one sitting right next to our Lord, on His right-hand side. John the beloved disciple is the one sitting on His left-hand side. He is usually bent over onto our Lord’s chest for comfort.

Judas Iscariot is usually placed on the left side of the table, leaning forward to dip his piece of bread in the common dipping bowl at the center of the table – however, in the example icon above, he is placed on the right side of the table which is not that common. He is also young with no beard.

Scriptural references for this icon: Matthew 26:17-30Mark 14:12-26Luke 22:7-38John 13:1-30