The Last Supper by Tintoretto in the Cathedral of San Martino

Eleven Unusual Things to See in Lucca
If you search the web for things you should see or do when visiting an area, you’ll probably find a list of the top ten things and usually they’re pretty typical.
Well, I’m suggesting eleven because I’ve decided to go one better.
Actually, if I were to think of all the particular places or things to see or do in Lucca, the list would be endless.


Inside the Cathedral of San Martino, at the third altar of the right aisle, there is a painting of the Last Supper of Christ painted by the famous Venetian painter Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto. This was the last work painted by the artist, aided by his son Domenico, dating 1594, the year of his death.

This painting, like the others present in the church, is in keeping with the dictates of the Counter-Reformation in response to the Protestant Reformation and the resulting heresy that permeated Lucca right to the highest levels of the aristocracy.
Nevertheless, there are a number of elements in this painting which distinguish it. The highly dramatic Eucharistic event is highlighted by effects of light and shade (chiaroscuro) which divide the earthly elements from those divine: the heavenly sky, parted, behind Jesus and the darkness of the tavern, the Eucharistic bread and rich tableware and furnishings placed on the candidly white tablecloth.

However, the element, which stands out the most, is the young woman, at the foot of the painting, breastfeeding her child. She personifies all the women of the world who are able to prepare their children to receive the Body of Christ, that is the Eucharist, and the miracle of transubstantiation. The woman is you, ladies, the onlookers. This is one of the first and strongest examples of interactivity between a painted work of art and the viewer, who, amazed, finds himself catapulted into the vertical scene. This sensation is further increased by the optical illusion we experience when we walk from left to right and vice-versa while staring at the table. The table magically moves its position from horizontal to vertical as if we were moving around it.
Steven Spielberg couldn’t have done any better in his films filled with special effects.

More from Eleven Unusual Things to See in Lucca:
The exterior graffiti on the Church of San Michele
A curious story regarding the tomb of the merchant Tignosini
The replica of the Holy House of Our Lady of Loreto in the Church of Santa Maria Nera

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