See our tips on How to Visit The Last Supper in Milan, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
A trip to Milan is not complete without a visit to see Leonardo da Vinci’s world renowned artwork, The Last Supper. This fresco, painted on the walls of the dining room of the former Dominican monastery, Santa Maria delle Grazie, depicts Jesus’ last supper with his apostles. It is one of the Western world’s most recognizable artworks and a must-see painting on any trip to Italy.
The History of The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint The Last Supper by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, for the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The commission was part of a larger renovation project for the monastery’s dining hall, which was to be decorated with a mural representing the last supper form the Bible.
Painted in the 1400s the artwork is located in its original position today, despite having been through a turbulent history; environmental challenges, centuries of restorations and bombings in the Second World War that left the painting exposed to the elements for several years.
Several attempts at restoration, including the use of inappropriate materials and techniques, have also contributed to the deterioration of the painting. In recent decades, extensive restoration efforts have been undertaken to stabilize and preserve the remaining fragments of the original artwork.
Despite the damage and deterioration, The Last Supper continues to captivate audiences with its historical and artistic significance. It has become an enduring symbol of Christian faith and has influenced countless artists throughout history. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece remains a testament to his genius and artistic innovation, making it an irreplaceable part of the world’s artistic heritage.
Getting to Santa Maria delle Grazie is fairly simple, it is about a 20-minute walk from the stunning Duomo in heart of Milan. We took a cab which only took 5 minutes. There is not much in the area, only one cafe opposite the museum which is great for coffee or a drink before or after you visit.
The painting is huge, 8.8 metres long and 4.6 metres wide, dominating the wall of the monastery’s former dining room. It is now preserved in a climate controlled room and visitor numbers are heavily monitored – groups of a maximum 25 are allowed in at any one time and only for allotments of 15 minutes.
The painting displayed today has undergone significant restoration works over the years including a 21-year restoration undertaken in the late 1990’s which aimed to reverse the damage caused by dirt and pollution and by previous unsuccessful restoration attempts.
On the oppositee wall is another fresco, Giovanni Donato da Montorfano’s, Crucifixion, which is a fascinating painting in its own right.
Tickets and Tours
As ticket numbers are restricted, we highly recommend booking a guided tour in advance, most tours will meet guests at the front of Santa Maria delle Grazie, provide details and history about the building and artwork before the actual viewing of The Last Supper.
Note that you cannot take any liquids, including water, in to the building when you are viewing The Last Supper, however there are lockers available to store belongings. Cameras are allowed, but flashes cannot be used.
One tip is to try and linger until the end of your allotted viewing time and you may be rewarded with a few brief moments to absorb the wonder of The Last Supper on your own, as other guests head out the exit doors. Be warned though, you will be quickly moved on by a charming Italian woman if you linger a little too long over your allotted 15 minutes!
The monastery and gardens are quite beautiful, and depending on when you are visiting it is possible to combine a visit to The Last Supper with a tour of the building. Visiting The Last Supper is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to add to your travel bucket list!