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The Santa Maria delle Grazie church has become more popular than ever in recent years. Since the bestselling book ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown and the successful film adaptation of the book, this church has been attracting even larger crowds than before. They all come to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s mural ‘The Last Supper’. The mural, which depicts Jesus with his disciples on the evening before Judas betrays him, is inextricably linked to the history of this church.
The church in which Da Vinci painted ‘The Last Supper’ was built in the late 15th century under the direction of architect Guiniforte Solari. After it was completed, an alcove of the church was immediately demolished and the church was redesigned by the famous Renaissance architect Donato Bramante, resulting in one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Milan. Inside the church, you can see the difference between Solari’s nave with pointed arches covered completely in detailed frescos, and the light and austere design of the alcoves by Bramante. The building was severely damaged by allied bombing in 1943. Fortunately, Da Vinci’s famous mural remained intact because the wall had been sandbagged as a precaution.
Milan has always been the city of Leonardo da Vinci, although he was not born here. This world-famous Renaissance painter was, as his name suggests, from Vinci, a village near Florence. He was born as an unwanted illegitimate child – not the best start in life for a child in the 15th century. At the age of 14, Da Vinci moved to Florence and ultimately to Milan. He is considered one of the greatest painters of all times, although he was also a sculptor, architect, philosopher, physicist and engineer - a genuine ‘Renaissance Man’ before the term was coined.
“Da Vinci bought a bible especially for conducting research for ‘The Last Supper’”
Da Vinci’s masterpiece depicts the moment right after Jesus has told his 12 disciples that one of them would betray him before sunrise. The artist realistically portrays the surprise on their faces and body language. This mural is not a fresco but a tempura painting, a technique that enabled artists to make subtle nuances. But since this technique was less durable, smudges quickly appeared in the painting making it difficult to restore.