A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Last Supper in Stained Glass

by Glen McCullough

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper. This seems often to fade into the background against the centrality of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Yet we remember the Last Supper every time we take part in the Mass.

The supper took place in “a large upper room furnished with couches” (Luke 22:13) that was ready for them.

There are three parts to the Last Supper: the washing of the feet, the supper, and the institution of the Eucharist.


The washing of the feet is depicted with a great deal of artistic license in this window [1] from St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast. It takes place outside, rather than inside the upper room as described in John 13:2-15. The window from St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Macquarie St, Sydney [2] is a much simpler depiction.











When we think about the Last Supper, we generally think in terms of the classic painting  by Da Vinci. The window below [3] from Sacred Heart Church, Omagh, Northern Ireland gets its inspiration from the painting. The upper room is as described in Luke’s Gospel. The bread and wine are on the table, John is leaning against Jesus’ chest, and Judas, the only one without a halo (second from right), is getting ready to sneak out with the money bag.


The same elements are in the completely different window [4] in St Mark’s Church, Carterton, except that John is not leaning on Jesus’ breast, which more closely follows Luke’s account of the event rather than John’s, and Judas is already sneaking out.


A similar scene [5], although in a different shape, is in the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned, Gibraltar. It is similar to the window that was in the earthquake-ravaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch (see page 2)


For my money, though, the most beautiful depiction [6] is in the chapel of St Patrick’s Silverstream. It was designed by my friend Beverley Shore Bennett. Jesus and the bread and wine are central, as they should be. The disciples are lined up six to a side, all with their hands together except Judas, bottom left, who has his head turned away in shame.






And that leads me to what is central in the Last Supper: the Eucharist. The last words Jesus used when changing the bread and wine into His body and blood say it all:

“Do this in memory of me.”

Priests repeat Jesus’ words at the consecration every time they say Mass. Is it any wonder, then, that there are so many stained glass windows around the world that show the Body and Blood of Christ?

Some are very complex, like this one [7] in St Michael’s, Remuera, Auckland. The cross, the chalice, the broken bread above open hands on the one side. Jesus words “poured out for many” are reflected on the right hand side.

Simpler windows like the ones in St John’s, Trentham [8] and Maria Assumpta, Beachhaven, Auckland [9] are, to my mind, more meaningful in their simplicity.

Perhaps the most significant window I have seen of the Eucharist was again designed by my friend Beverley Shore Bennett for Nelson Cathedral. I included this window in an earlier article, but it is worth showing again. I have enlarged the bottom corner panels [10] & [11] so you can see their beautiful detail, but the rest of the window is very symbolic and a delight to sit and meditate on.

These windows reflect my love of the Eucharist. I hope they also reflect your own love of Jesus’ living memorial.






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