The Refectory at Santa Maria delle Grazie is the location for one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art: Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. The location of this work, in the Refectory, the hall in which the monks gathered to eat, is not coincidental. In fact, it should be remembered that the Refectory is very close to the church, where the monks listened to the Scriptures and took their spiritual nourishment in the form of the Eucharist.
This work, amidst the daily rituals of lunch and dinner, was a constant reminder to the monks, showing that the life of the religious community was an extension of the life of Christ and his apostles.
Here, a religious theme is intertwined with art and history. The Last Supper was commissioned from Leonardo by Ludovico Sforza, who was then Duke of Milan, as part of a plan to refurbish the monastery and church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. This project was of great importance for Ludovico Sforza, because it was in this church that the Duke planned to install his own tomb.
Thus the monastery buildings, including the church and Refectory, were to become a work of sacred art, while also fulfilling the Duke’s ambitions to heighten the prestige of his city with fine art and architecture, in the style of that period.
With the Last Supper, Leonardo created a remarkable example of perspective, a technique that had been developed in Florence, in northern Italy. This opened up the end wall of the Refectory, creating an illusion of a spacious room with a coffered ceiling.