Cenacle

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The Cenacle (from Latin cēnāculum "dining room", later spelt coenaculum and semantically drifting towards "upper room"), also known as the "Upper Room", is a room in Jerusalem traditionally held to be the site of the Last Supper.

Overview

Looking southwards, the architectural evidence remains of the period of Muslim control including the elaborate mihrab in the Last Supper room, the Arabic inscriptions on its walls, the qubba over the stairwell, and the minaret and dome atop the roof. Formerly a mosque, it was converted into a synagogue following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The Upper Room in the Tomb of David complex atop mount Zion.

Tradition

circa 30 CE

The Cenacle or the Upper Room in the King David's Tomb compound is traditionally held to be the site of the Last Supper. In biblical tradition, the Last Supper is the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. "Cenacle" is a derivative of the Latin word cēnō, which means "I dine". Jerome used the Latin coenaculum for both Greek words in his Latin Vulgate translation.

In Christian tradition, the room was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the Cenacle), but the room in which the Holy Spirit alighted upon the eleven apostles after Easter. It is sometimes thought to be the place where the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. According to one early Christian tradition, the “upper room” was in the home of Mary the mother of John Mark. He was the author of the Gospel of Mark (and presumably also the young man who fled naked, leaving behind his linen garment, to escape the authorities when Jesus was arrested in the garden at Gethsemane, an event he recorded in Mark 14:51). This house was a meeting place for the followers of Jesus. It was inside the city walls of Jerusalem, in a quarter that was home to its most affluent residents.

The upper room (cenacle) is also believed to be the site of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' final Passover meal, the washing of his disciples' feet, certain resurrection appearances of Jesus, the gathering of the disciples after the Ascension of Jesus, the election of Saint Matthias as apostle, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost.

History

circa 30 CE

Construction Chronology
The early history of the Cenacle site is uncertain; scholars have attempted to establish a chronology based on archaeological, artistic and historical sources. Scholars offer wide-ranging dates and builders for the surviving Gothic-style Cenacle. Some believe that it was constructed by Crusaders just before Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, while others attribute it to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, after he arrived in the city in 1229. Still others hold that it was not built in this form until the Franciscans acquired the site in the 1330s. Scarce documentation and disturbed structural features offer little strong support for any of these dates.

circa 30 CE

Modern Studies
The primary early modern assessments of the Cenacle were recorded by French archaeologists. The first detailed assessment was by Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé in 1860. This was largely followed by other commentators until the work of Camille Enlart and Louis-Hugues Vincent / Félix-Marie Abel.

Architecture

circa 30 CE

Hall Interior
In its current state, the Cenacle is divided into six rib-vaulted bays. The bays are supported by three freestanding columns which bilaterally divide the space, as well as six pillars flanking the side walls. While the capital of the westernmost freestanding column is flush with the Cenacle’s interior wall, the column shaft itself is completely independent of the wall, leading scholars to consider the possibility that this wall was not original to the building.

The capital between the first and second bays seems either severely weathered or shallowly carved, and its volume is a marked contrast from the others. Analysis of these column capitals does not yield significant evidence to link them to the 14th century and a potential Franciscan construction, nor does it definitively date them to the 12th or 13th century. There are two niches below the eastern stained-glass window (inspect).

circa 30 CE

Architectural evidence remains of the period of Muslim control including the elaborate mihrab in the Last Supper room, the Arabic inscriptions on its walls, the qubba over the stairwell, and the minaret (inspect) and dome atop the roof. The doorway to the right of the Mihrab didn't exist (inspect) previously.

circa 30 CE

Stained Glass Windows
In the southern wall there are two stained glass windows, one to the east (inspect) of the mehrab and other to the west (inspect). The two stained glass windows, with an inscription: Arabic: فَاحْكُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَىٰ‎, lit. 'judge between the people in truth and do not follow [your own] desire', from Quran 38:26, known as the "Story of David and the Two Litigants

circa 30 CE

Inscriptions
A small dedicatory plaque (inspect | read) in the eastern wall (left) in the lower right corner of the window. To the right of the Mehrab a small tiled plaque bears an inscription of Bismillah (inspect).

circa 30 CE

The stairs, in the Last Supper Rooom, leading down to the cenotaph chamber topped with a samll dome with crusader era column depicting pelicans (inspect). The capitals of the freestanding columns are not identical.

Depiction in Madaba Map

circa 30 CE

Sixth-century artistic representations, such as the mosaics found in Madaba, Jordan (the "Madaba Map") and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, depict a smaller structure to the south of basilica. Some have identified this smaller structure as the Cenacle thus demonstrating its independence from, and possible prior existence to, the basilica.

Tomb Complex

circa 30 CE

The tomb of King David is located on the lower level of the Tomb Complex, it is a small chamber considered by some to be the burial place of David, King of Israel, according to a tradition beginning in the 12th century. Though the majority of historians and archaeologists do not consider the site to be the actual resting place of King David.

Dormition Abbey

circa 30 CE

A grand German Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition, located nearby on top of Mount Zion, commemorating the memory of Virgin Mary, in the traditional site of her death (the name means "Eternal sleep"). According to local tradition, it was on this spot, near the site of the Last Supper (Cenacle), that the Blessed Virgin Mary died, or at least ended her worldly existence. The church itself is called Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition). The present church is a circular building with several niches containing altars, and a choir. Two spiral staircases lead to the crypt, the site ascribed to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and also to the organ-loft and the gallery, from where two of the church's four towers are accessible.

Gallery

See Also

References

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